- Steele Upon a Mattress - Part
Date: Friday, April 04, 2003 11:37 AM
- From: Lauryn Poynor <firstname.lastname@example.org>
STEELE UPON A MATTRESS - PART NINE
"Mr. Steele." Laura silently commanded her expression
to remain neutral
to her partner's discerning gaze, while on the inside, her emotions
the gamut from relief, to pleasure, to festering anger with no
To a casual observer the detective's easy manner conveyed that
wandered in from a refreshing stroll around the block, but even
distance Laura detected a tenseness in the set of his shoulders
gave the game away; fight or flight, he was set to spring out
blocks as soon as she fired the starter's pistol. She'd be damned
she'd give him the satisfaction.
Murphy, on the other hand, had no qualms about pulling the trigger.
walked over to Steele and eyed him with clinical fascination,
as if he
had just pulled back the sheet on a John Doe that had turned
up in the
Upon closer inspection even Murphy registered disbelief. From
down Steele was immaculate, if less formally dressed than expected
ribbed cashmere sweater, houndstooth jacket, and dark slacks.
however, was several degrees shy of its usual perfection. There
abrasions on his chin and left cheek, his lower lip was swollen,
large rainbow colored bruise decorated his brow.
Murphy gave a low whistle. "Unless I miss my guess,"
he began, "Bruno
and Guido finally caught up with you."
"Your consistency is admirable, Murphy. Always ready to
"In your case it's a safe bet."
Steele returned fire with a marksman's assurance. "My mother,
Steele, used to say, never bet on a sure thing unless you can
"Yeah?" Murphy folded his arms across his chest. "Where
darling globe trot off to the past three days?"
"No passport required." Steele replied with brisk authority.
the city. I decided it was time to venture out beyond the microcosm
these four gray walls. Become a tourist. Get the lay of the land,
Murphy's spirits seemed dampened by the news. "Wouldn't
you know it? I
had five bucks riding on the Bahamas."
"Which reminds me," prodded Bernice expectantly, holding
out her hand.
Murphy walked over and slapped a bill into her palm with an air
Steele looked on from an ironic distance. "You only missed
it by a few
thousand miles. Remind me not to hire you as my travel agent."
exchange with Murphy was an afterthought. The reaction he was
interested in was Laura's. She stood only a few feet away, watching
her entire body inclined forward as if it were spring-loaded
curiosity. A myriad questions hovered on her lips and the set
of her jaw
indicated they would be very direct questions indeed.
Steele scrambled for a fall back position. "No doubt since
away, clients have been lining up to see me," he interjected
Suddenly the reception area seemed terribly empty.
"Not really," Murphy said dryly.
"Well, it's lunchtime. I'm sure they'll be along shortly."
airily to Bernice. "Perhaps for the sake of efficiency you
them in by twos." In a few long strides he disappeared into
closing the door shut swiftly behind him.
The trio of Laura, Murphy, and Bernice stared blankly at each
"That was unenlightening," Laura said with a distracted
Bernice jerked her thumb in the direction of Steele's office.
what are you waiting for? A search warrant? Go in there and find
what he's been up to."
Laura hung back stubbornly. "Why should I?"
"Because if you don't you're going to spontaneously combust."
Laura huffed mightily. "What Mr. Steele does on his off
hours is no
concern of mine!"
"Off hours!" Murphy exploded. "When's the last
time I took an
unannounced three day vacation with pay? The only reason he's
is he probably used up all his traveler's checks at the bail
"I have to agree with Murphy. From the looks of him, Laura,
he took a
few detours off the straight and narrow. You'd better get in
start pitching questions or we could all in up in the clink,"
Laura didn't spend much time agonizing. "Hold my calls,"
before striding over and opening the closed door without knocking.
Steele had removed his jacket and was half hidden behind a newspaper
when she entered the inner sanctum. He peered over the pages
as she shut
the door. "Client waiting?" he asked innocently.
"Don't bother to check for headlines. They're scarce these
Steele put down the paper and surveyed his uncluttered desktop.
it I haven't been busy in my absence."
"No. Not very." Laura folded her arms.
"It was kind of you to save these for me." Steele waved
a hand at a
small stack of daily papers.
"I hear circulation is up where you least expect it,"
casually, perching on the edge of Steele's desk. "East LA,
Steele recognized the signs of his inquisitive partner in full
investigative mode. He was as offhand as possible in his reply.
"Excellent news. Should help to bring in new clients."
"Maybe we should arrange some photo-ops. That is, if you're
stick to the usual tourist attractions. Wouldn't want you to
"I think I can manage," he replied. Impassively, he
studied his partner
and waited for the inevitable cross examination to begin.
To kill him or kiss him, Laura mused. Both options were equally
but only one might get her some answers. On impulse, she reached
and lightly stroked his bruised forehead. "Can you, really,
I'm not so sure," she murmured, sliding one finger slowly
Her touch sent off warning signals to every cell of his body.
expected Laura to play this game. She leaned toward him, across
desk, tantalizingly close, the thin material of her silk blouse
tightly against her breasts. The sight made him think of spandex
sweat. He shut his eyes tightly to dispel the image as Laura's
twined in his hair. The aftertaste of his dream lingered as she
him, none too gently, but with passion to spare. His swollen
against her teeth, but the pain was forgotten as her assault
yielding and seductive, sending a spike of ineluctable pleasure
Between kisses, never breaking concentration, Laura resumed her
interrogation. "What -- the hell -- have you been doing
-- the past --
"Nothing -- this gratifying -- believe me." Steele
managed to get up
from his chair with minimal loss of lip contact.
She felt a small spark of triumph at his admission. His guard
slipping. She was sure of it. "Why -- should I?" Laura
slipping off the desk to stand facing him. "Believe you,
I mean?" She
laced her fingers around his neck and kissed him with renewed
"Because -- when you do that," moaned Steele, demonstrating
back to her, "I feel this incontrollable -- urge for --
Laura's body tensed in response. Mr. Steele gave as good as he
hands roamed across his back, fingers kneading his muscles through
soft fiber of his sweater. "Why didn't I think of this before?"
breathed. "The truth game." She planted a kiss on his
earlobe, a smile
playing across her lips. "Go on."
"Now I've forgotten the question."
Laura poked him hard, but playfully, in the chest. "I'll
expect a signed
confession on my desk by Thursday."
Steele's face instantly turned a whiter shade of pale. He staggered
and stood momentarily frozen in place.
"I was only joking," she assured him, dismayed by his
violent reaction. "Well, half joking."
Steele was still trying to find his breath.
"Are you alright?" Laura asked, studying his bruised
"I'm fine," he croaked, the sweeping pain in his ribs
making him feel
"No, you're not."
"It's nothing, really. Probably just the after effects of
that trip to
His gym partner wasn't buying any of it. "Pull up your sweater."
"Laura," Steele protested. The thought of doing it
made him wince. He'd
dressed very carefully and slowly that morning.
"I'll do it." She lifted the garment and the T-shirt
he was wearing
underneath as gently as she could manage.
"Have a care, Miss Holt. It's cashmere," Steele quipped,
Laura's breath caught numbly in her throat as she drew her fingers
across his exposed skin. Deep-dyed bruises daubed his stomach
darkly across his chest. When her palms explored his ribs Steele
himself not to react, but he still flinched noticeably when she
Steele gently stopped her progress. "Laura, I can explain."
but something went wrong. The stockpile of evasions, excuses,
outright fabrications he had rehearsed on the way up in the elevator
mysteriously vanished into thin air.
"Ah, the explanation -- escapes me at the moment."
Steele swallowed the
persistent lump in his throat. Why hadn't he said something sensible?
His partner's jaw dropped at this anticlimax.
"Laura, it really doesn't matter." Carefully, he removed
her hands and
pulled his sweater back down over his torso.
"How can you say it doesn't matter?" Laura queried
in disbelief, a
hundred fraught scenarios flashing through her mind. "What
have you been
"I, that is, Remington Steele, had to disappear for a few
smiled thinly. "I was following a hunch. An old instinct."
"A hunch?" she shot back, incredulous. "Some shady,
back door operation,
"Nothing nefarious, I assure you," Steele winced. "The
reputation remains very much intact."
Laura's voice was strained. "You think I'm just worried
Steele sighed deeply. It wasn't fair but he was tired of questions
scrutiny, and wary of her solicitude. "It's safer that way,
He walked stiffly back to his chair.
Laura's jerked her chin defiantly. "You're not in the best
right now to lecture me on what's safe." Self possession
unraveling, she stared back at him, wondering where the Remington
had gone who, minutes ago, had kissed her so warmly. This one
stranger in the same dark clothes, the line of his posture alert,
dangerous, warning her off.
Steele regarded his partner distantly from behind the desk, his
language signaling the interview was over. "Point taken,
"I promised myself I would stay out of the advice business,"
keeping her voice low and even with considerable effort, "but
see a doctor."
Steele looked up sharply. "You're ever so determined to
get me on the
psychiatrist's couch, Dr. Holt," he sniped. Her earlier
"You know that's not what I meant."
"Yes, well, it sounded very much like it," Steele said
Laura was speechless for a long moment, then found her voice
in a rush.
"Then tell your analyst to pencil me in," she snapped.
"I must need my
head examined. I have this stupid, crazy attachment to lost causes!"
Stung by her words, Steele took the path of most resistance.
it's my life and my 'lost cause' as you put it, and I'll deal
with it in
my own way."
"That's worked out really well so far, hasn't it?"
In a fury of
frustration, Laura stormed out and strode to the sanctuary of
office. She wasted no time in slamming the door resoundingly
her. Ignoring the questioning stares of Murphy and Bernice, Steele
up and with less fanfare, but equal finality, closed his own
door to the
Late that afternoon, a new client dug in his heels and adamantly
insisted on seeing Remington Steele. Nerves on edge, Laura buzzed
Steele's office, barked the news over the line, and gritted her
Steele's sardonically amused "Send him in, Miss Holt."
Few clients that had ever crossed the threshold at Remington
Investigations received such rapt attention and tender loving
the dynamic duo of Steele and Holt. The brilliant armchair deductions
of Steele's trusted associate had the interviewee practically
himself in disbelief over his own good fortune; then, for the
grace, he was hit squarely with a dose of charm from Steele that
blinding it was almost radioactive.
With the awed client's head oscillating back and forth like a
at a tennis match, the pair's one-upmanship continued for a full
minutes until, giddy from the rarefied oxygen in the room, the
finally ushered to the door, besieged on both sides with firm
Bernice and Murphy observed the contest with a mixture of amusement
"Amazing, Murph. I thought it was a run of the mill dog
guy's not even a celebrity, for pete's sake. He's a shoe salesman
"He's certainly getting bang for his buck."
Bernice waved Murphy's five dollar bill in the air. "Which
one do you
think will run out of ammunition first?"
"Uh-uh. When they get like this, all bets are off. We'll
be lucky not to
get hit by the crossfire."
"I'll live to die another day," Murphy smirked.
That night, even after a therapeutic small screen dose of Cagney
Bogart, Steele couldn't relax. His lock picking diversions fared
better; he was unable to muster the finesse required to slip
guard of a twelve pin Medeco Super Special. Somewhat unsteadily,
poured himself a Scotch.
"She's right. You're a lost cause, mate," he whispered,
the shot in one go. The fact that he goaded Laura into the opinion
didn't make his prospects easier to contemplate.
His first impulse in a crisis had always been to cut and run,
and it had
kept him safe more often than not; with the exception of Daniel
never left anyone behind who mattered. With Laura, things were
complicated. On the one hand, he devoutly wished her to care
left or stayed, and to fret and worry over his well being; on
his instincts told him that too much of the truth game was going
comfort. Fear of being trapped had him as nervous as a claustrophobe.
The more he thought of their earlier encounter, the more gloom
over him. He'd been so determined to keep her at bay he'd run
over her feelings and painted them both into a corner. Even if
righted itself again, and his sleep problems disappeared, he
would ever entirely forgive him. If he knew Laura Holt, her guard,
henceforth, would be up with a vengeance. His impossible challenge
become even more impossible to win without a long, hard siege.
Steele dimmed the lights and sank down onto the sofa, feeling
relief from the ache in his bones. He stared out at the lights
city and with an anxious heart, pondered his next move.
Sitting cross legged on the bed, Laura pored through the ledgers
case files strewn haphazardly at her feet. Working at home had
been a tonic rather than a chore, as long as it was sweetened
by a pint
of chocolate fudge brownie ice cream or an extended break curling
with a hot cup of coffee and a steamy novel.
Trouble was, at the moment, nearly all of those pleasures reminded
of someone she wanted to forget. Sipping borrowed Jamaican nectar
breathing heavily over Charlotte Knight's latest would be tempting
to say the least. The last thing she needed to be thinking of
night, not so long ago, when she and that someone had shared
coffee-flavored kisses and fantasized about "prone positions."
He'd seemed charmingly open and above board then, not to mention,
pleased to see her. Not at all like the man she'd kissed this
just as deeply, only to be summarily rebuffed minutes later.
about their relationship had ever been simple, but she couldn't
it ever skirting this close to disaster.
She'd been kidding herself to think he needed her. He'd certainly
that clear enough. He didn't want any help from Laura Holt, or
else, even if it killed him. She couldn't stop agonizing over
happened to him in the past three days, how he'd gotten so battered
bruised, and why he was determined to keep her out of it.
So much of his former existence was a closed book to her, but
truth couldn't be worse than what her overactive imagination
conjure up. What messily complicated matters was that tacit agreement
that had been with them from the start, to keep their private
private. Still, as his partner in deception, so to speak, she
right to know. Not that it mattered now. The likelihood of that
confession of Steele's appearing on her desk was growing dimmer
Steele leapt to his feet, pacing the well worn path of carpet
perimeter of his desk.
"Laura, contrary to the rumors that have been bandied about,
Steele is not an invalid, and he is quite capable of doing business
"Business as usual? Please enlighten me," Laura retorted
with an icy
glare. "I'm having a little trouble with the concept. What
mean exactly? Absence without leave? Popping in and out of sight
Houdini at a magic show?"
"I would merely like to be assured of a ringside seat. I've
doodling on dinner napkins for four days running."
"Isn't that what you wanted? Dullness? Boredom? Monotony?
Steele exhaled in exasperation. "I suppose, but it doesn't
appear to be
working quite the way I envisioned." He straightened his
"I haven't been able to sleep a wink."
"Is that my fault?" Laura shrugged, staring fixedly
out of the window.
In truth, she'd been a bit leery of sending him out on publicity
looking like he'd been in a bar fight, but if he avoided the
of the curious half as well as he had avoided her own, it was
way to keep him occupied. Steele had seemed desperately tired
few days despite his late show of bravado. He'd been standoffish
equal measure, so it almost came as a relief to find them clashing
again over the same familiar patch of ground.
"Did you have to be so bloody conscientious? Couldn't you
have thrown in
a nice juicy murder to spice things up? I'm sure there's a politician
I've met somewhere who wouldn't be missed."
Laura turned back to him with a half smile, appearing to consider
notion. "I'll try harder next time."
The buzz of the incoming phone line caused them both to jump.
met briefly, then Steele reached over and firmly pressed the
"Undoubtedly a distraught client in urgent need of my services,"
theorized. "Steele here." Laura could hear Bernice's
impatiently over the line.
"Well," Steele smiled sourly. "I got it half right.
It's for you." He
handed over the receiver, then sat down behind his desk, tapping
fingers monotonously on the arm of his chair.
Laura assumed a brisk, professional tone. "Yes, Bernice?"
for a moment. "He's a little late for his appointment --
but no, it's
not a problem. I'll be right out."
She walked to the doorway and lingered there, as if waiting for
to insist on seeing the client, or at the least, lodge a protest
exclusionary tactics. Instead, the slump of her partner's shoulders
indicated he found it infinitely more satisfying to sulk.
"Don't mind me, Miss Holt. I'm sure I can find something
useful to do.
Sharpening pencils, drafting dull dinner speeches and the like."
Laura took a deep breath and proffered some advice. "Maybe
you should go
home. The day's almost over. Try to get some rest."
Steele ran one finger meditatively across the smooth desktop.
idea, Miss Holt, but it works better in theory than it does in
"A movie? Do you know what time it is?" Laura sat up
in bed and ran her
hands through her hair.
"I make it about eleven. I'll send a cab round to pick you
up. It starts
"What starts at midnight?"
"'Vertigo.' James Stewart, Kim Novak, Universal, 1958. It's
re-released in theaters. The VistaVision negative has been deteriorating
for years but plans are afoot to restore it. They're asking for
donations to the cause, actually."
"Wonderful," Laura mumbled hazily. "I'll send
a check in the mail
Steele rattled on as if he hadn't heard. "A good thing you
'Arts' section in today's paper. An opportunity this rare should
"I saved it for the crossword."
"Very funny, Miss Holt." Steele's tone changed to pleading.
with me and you can hand over your check personally to Martin
"Shady associate of yours?"
You don't mean you've never heard of him?"
Laura rolled her eyes. "Just shoot me."
"Then perhaps you have. Mean streets of New York. Societal
"Actually, for a film director I'm told he's quite civilized
quite a champion of film preservation. Trust me, Laura. This
is the perfect photo opportunity."
"I don't have anything to wear."
"Nonsense. I'm sure you have a little black dress hanging
in your closet
"Enough about what's hanging in my closet -" Laura
"Must you be so suspicious? Every woman has a little black
Laura gave a long sigh and blinked fuzzily at her reflection
mirror. "You win. Let's make headlines, Mr. Steele. But
if I end up as
'unidentified woman' again the agency's subscription to the 'Tribune'
will be dropped like a bad habit. Get it?"
"Laura. How often does one get to make a good impression
"What on earth were you thinking?" Laura shrilled.
"That could have paid
our rent for the next two months. I should have known not to
"One must keep up appearances. How would it look for Remington
not to sign his own checks?"
"I don't suppose it would be polite to ask for it back?"
"Not in such refined company."
"Then I'll distract the photographers and you break into
Steele pulled her gently but firmly by the arm. "Icy calm,
Think of it as an investment in the longevity of the cinema."
"This had better make the front page." Laura smiled
into the flashbulbs
with a blinding show of teeth.
Later, the two of them looked on curiously as a middle aged man
fringes of the crowd was being hounded for an autograph.
"I'm sorry. I don't sign. You must have mistaken me for
"You're the shrink to the stars, right?" asked an intense,
bearded college student in a 'Taxi Driver' T-shirt. "Brando,
Niro. All the greats."
"I'm just here to support a worthy cause." He pushed
his owlish glasses
back up to the bridge of his nose.
"Uh-huh. I know who you are. You de-program actors. When
they get too
far into their roles."
The gray-haired man looked uncomfortable. "I'll sign if
it will make you
feel better. Did anyone ever tell you that you have self esteem
The student grinned delightedly. "Thanks, doc. I knew it
Laura watched the exchange with a thoughtful frown. "Funny.
He is a
psychiatrist. That's Irving Sobel. I know he's had some very
profile patients, at least that's the rumor. He also has a serious
background on the forensic side. I've seen him testify in court."
"Sounds fascinating." Steele looked suitably impressed.
"We collaborated briefly, on a murder investigation."
"Hang on." Steele's blue eyes widened incredulously.
"Laura, you worked
with Robert De Niro's psychiatrist and you never told me?"
"You never asked. Besides, it was just a minor consultation.
We had a
client in common. I'm sure he barely remembers me."
"Let's find out. Introduce us, won't you?" Steele propelled
through the well dressed throng like celebrity seeking missiles.
"Mr. Steele. We're not in a race." She brushed a windblown
hair back from her forehead.
The doctor looked up and saw them barreling his way. He smiled
recognition. "Miss Holt, isn't it? The Harcourt case?"
"Dr. Sobel," Laura replied cordially, shaking his hand.
His alert gaze fell on Steele. "Have we met before? You
"Steele. Remington Steele. Perhaps it was at a premiere
or something. I
see quite a lot of movies. Hobby of mine."
"Irving Sobel." They shook hands. "You must be
Miss Holt's elusive boss.
Always unavailable or out of town, as I recall."
"I'm afraid the press of commitments elsewhere has kept
me away from the
agency for some time," Steele replied with an officious
"We've practically had to install a homing device in his
said tartly, in a backhanded reference to his recent exploits.
Unfazed, Steele assumed the Olympian faade of a builder of empires.
"I've decided to forego the international scene for a while
and take a
more active role in things here. Los Angeles is, after all, the
Laura resisted the impulse to roll her eyes heavenward.
"The papers say you're an expert on criminal psychology,
Steele eyed the other man somewhat warily. "I have a --
interest in the subject."
"Likewise. Perhaps we could get together sometime and talk
"If it's all the same to you, doctor," Steele said
with short laugh,
"I'd rather talk about Brando and De Niro."
Crime in the movies is so much more glamorous, isn't it?"
An ironic half smile formed on Steele's lips. "I can't say
"Dr. Sobel is too modest," Laura cut in. "His
expertise is actually
"Wonderful. Tell me doctor, " Steele began, deliberately
meaning of her words, "what was that process like? Getting
De Niro's head?"
"Professionally speaking, Mr. Steele, actors are more of
a sideline, but
they do have a certain fascination. Neurosis seems to come with
territory." Sobel stared impassively from behind his glasses.
"You were saying, doctor?" Steele prompted with avid
"You want to know about De Niro?," Sobel queried with
a tiny smile. "I
could write a book. But confidentiality rather than modesty prevents
"Of course." Steele swallowed his disappointment. "Naturally,
as a fan,
I would relish the opportunity to hear more, but I quite understand
necessity for keeping secrets, doctor. Our investigative firm
under the same restrictions. Indeed, all of our clients, especially
more newsworthy ones, are most eager to avoid publicity."
"Not to say, Mr. Steele, that over a few drinks, I might
persuaded to share a more public anecdote or two. I've never
to secrecy on a movie set, well not most of them, anyway."
"Miss Holt and I would have more than a few good stories
ourselves," Steele replied expansively.
On Laura's warning glare, Steele tacked on a hasty amendment.
salient details changed to protect the innocent, of course. Or
guilty," he finished with an apologetic shrug.
Sobel warmed to the idea. "Well, I certainly owe your firm
a debt of
gratitude for past assistance."
"Then it's settled, doctor. Give me a call when you're free.
a bar where the martinis are crisp and the waiters are expert."
"And properly discreet, I hope." Sobel smiled politely.
"I'll look forward to it."
The doctor shook hands on the deal, and with a slight bow, left
and Steele and slipped quietly away from the crowd.
Steele awoke with a start, his head throbbing like fury. Good
What time was it? he wondered, rising from his half recumbent
on the sofa. He pulled a pillow out from behind his head and
the room to swim back into focus.
The vodka martinis that had stung so pleasantly going down a
ago were making his stomach churn and had turned the back of
as fuzzy as a shag carpet. Steele dragged his protesting limbs
kitchen, downed two glasses of orange juice, and semi-automatically
began to fluff eggs, milk, and cheese into an omelet.
After breakfast had been methodically disposed of Steele got
up from the
table, went into the bathroom and splashed his face with cold
he stripped out of his wrinkled shirt and trousers a small business
slipped from his pocket and fell onto the tiled floor. Steele
up and blinked twice at the bold, black script. Appointment.
Somewhat erratically, he began to fit odd bits and pieces together
the night before. It was a long story that had started, it seemed,
the very long, mahogany bar of Musso and Frank's. The persistence
memory of Old Hollywood had hung heavily in the air as the elder
statesmen behind the counter proffered crisp, martinis, very
sidecars in carafes. One minute he and Dr. Sobel were chuckling
companionably at a joke about how many method actors it took
to screw in
a light bulb and the next thing he knew he could barely walk
Fred was shepherding him to the relative safety of his own front
Somewhere in between there had been a detour to a dive in West
with unidentifiable drinks and a kosher menu.
How Remington Steele had suddenly developed a doctor / patient
relationship with Sobel was even less clear in his mind. Somehow
had drifted from Robert De Niro learning to drive a cab on the
shift to night owls to insomnia and a harmless conversation had
into an impromptu therapy session. Steele squeezed his eyes shut
perched on the edge of the bathtub, head throbbing incessantly
drum beat of his heart. He'd never liked drinking, at least,
excess. It brought out some dormant confessional streak in him.
ever knew, he realized with a sweaty-palmed lurch of anxiety,
probably drag him off to the nearest wine cellar.
Ironic that the outcome he'd been trying so hard to avoid had
almost inevitable. For a fleeting moment Steele wondered if that
meeting with Sobel had been staged managed for his benefit. His
movie-fed imagination conjured up an image of Laura and the psychiatrist
smugly clinking glasses and toasting "to a successful conspiracy."
he let it go, deciding that thought was unworthy of both of them.
odd though, how the good doctor had seemed to get ever more sober
night wore on.
The question was how to get out of it all gracefully. He supposed
could show up, play the twenty questions game until they both
to call it a draw. Steele rubbed his aching skull and tried to
his quickest escape route.
Any actual truth telling, getting down to cases with a psychiatrist,
out of the question; worse, it was anathema to his system. He
think of nothing more horrendous than having his life opened
Pandora's box and reduced to a jumble of Freudian impulses. That
thing didn't bear thinking about. Strangely enough, though he'd
lifetime keeping secrets, the thought of chatting with Sobel
especially frightening. The man had charm, he'd give him that.
more reason he needed to be on his guard.
Laura looked up in surprise. "Mr. Steele. I didn't expect
to see you so
early. Fred told me you'd had a rather long night."
Steele wondered just how much the chauffeur had let slip about
"Affirmative, but I can assure you that the spirit is willing
the flesh is weak." Steele flinched under the office's fluorescent
glare. "Is it my imagination or is it rather bright in here?"
"The lighting's fine Mr. Steele." She quirked an eyebrow
bleary-eyed appearance. "Maybe a little too good. You look
- " she broke
off, struggling for a disparaging word.
"Like hell," Murphy and Bernice supplied, as if on
"Nothing that a few drops of eyewash won't remedy."
Steele squinted in
Murphy's direction. "I'm afraid I don't have a cure for
"How were the chops at Musso and Frank's?" Laura interrupted.
"I didn't have the chops -" Steele began, shooting
her a wary glance.
"You seem unusually well informed of my whereabouts."
"That's a first," Laura said dryly. "A waiter
called and described your
cigarette lighter. Apparently you left it there last night. They
sure if it was yours or Dr. Sobel's."
Steele's back felt the gaze of two sets of prying eyes. "Miss
Could we caucus for a moment?"
Laura shrugged. "Make it fast. I have paying clients to
see." Curious as
to what he was up to, she followed Steele into his office.
Shutting the door behind him, Steele walked over and closed the
against the sunlight. "That's better." He ensconced
himself behind his
Laura looked across at him expectantly. "So. What's this
you need to discuss? Your bar tab from last night?"
Steele gaze turned suddenly serious. "Laura. This Dr. Sobel.
How well do
you know him?"
She seemed a bit unprepared for the question. "If you want
she replied with deliberation, "I'd say he's a very wise
man. Is there
something else you'd like to know?"
"Not really. I surmised as much." Steele shifted uneasily
in his chair.
"The other night at the screening. Did you know he was going
Laura frowned down at him. "Why do you ask?"
"I just wondered if the papers mentioned it or something.
He seems to
have quite a public following for a man whose business depends
"You could say the same for Remington Steele."
"You have a point, of course."
Laura shot him a sidelong glance. "Don't think I don't know
going with this."
"Care to enlighten us both?"
"You think I arranged things so the two of you would meet."
"The thought did occur to me."
"Need I remind you, Mr. Steele, that I was the one dragged
out in the
dead of night to go see some silly movie?"
"Silly movie?" Steele remonstrated in an injured tone.
"And they still didn't get my name right. 'Laura Bolt'!
"Well, it's an improvement. Only one letter was amiss. Perhaps
agency should hire a publicist."
"We have enough people on retainer, Mr. Steele. Your tailor,
"All valued members of the firm. Image, Laura, image."
Laura gave him a look that could draw blood.
"Tax writeoff?" he offered hopefully. "Laura,
if you're afraid that my
seeing a psychiatrist will be too great of an expenditure -"
"I'll tell you what I think, Mr. St -- " Laura's lecture
to a halt. She sucked in a breath. "You're seeing a psychiatrist?"
Steele tugged at his earlobe. "I hadn't planned on it, but
I suppose I
am. That is, I have an appointment."
"After you practically lopped my head off for suggesting
it?" Her temper
flared up like a bonfire.
"If you'd rather I cancelled I'm sure Dr. Sobel would understand."
"Cancelled?" She discarded the notion without a backward
You're not getting out of it that easily."
Steele got up from his chair and began to pace. "I was afraid
Laura pinned him with a look. "I'm one step ahead of you,
Steele looked thoughtful for a moment. "So it appears, but
quite good enough."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"In this sort of game one has to think several moves ahead."
"You're talking in riddles. What game?"
"Laura." His expression was grave. "Does your
colleague's M.O. ring any
alarm bells? Dr. Sobel is an expert in criminal behavior. Not
of man I'd like tiptoeing through my subconscious, thank you
"I think you're overreacting. A little behavior modification
you some good."
"Be careful what you wish for, Miss Holt. The end result
could be very
inconvenient. I'm not entirely sure your figurehead would be
standing, despite my best efforts to guard the agency's left
"I don't need you to remind me of the risks," Laura
said with a superior
air. "I created Remington Steele. He's a figment of my imagination,
Steele regarded her quizzically. "As if I could forget.
Are you sure the
good doctor isn't barking up the wrong patient? Your neuroses
more fascinating than mine."
"My neuroses?" Laura exploded.
"Acting them out is bloody hard work. You should try it
"It was your idea to assume Remington Steele's identity!"
her own conscience nipping at her heels.
"You have me there, Miss Holt." Steele's expression
you were a rather willing co-conspirator." He captured her
face in his
hands and kissed her lightly on the lips. "The work does
compensations. An excellent benefits package." His long
around the curve of her waist.
"We'll just have to be very -- careful." She sucked
in a breath as he
pressed her form against his. "Stick to your official bio.
clippings. That sort of thing."
"All that gop about the CIA? It's not much to hang an identity
Laura slipped out of his grasp. "You're right, Mr. Steele."
her forehead absently. "This is all wrong."
"Don't look now, Miss Holt, but I believe you're beginning
to trust my
"I should. I mean, you should. Trust them, I mean. Say whatever's
Steele was monumentally perplexed. "I warn you, I've never
been good at
"This shouldn't be about keeping secrets. You're going to
psychiatrist, for heaven's sake!"
Steele eyed the notion with disdain. "No reason to discard
the habits of
"Maybe there's plenty of reason." Laura slapped her
thighs. "How should
I know? The point is, if you're not willing to give a few secrets
you might as well get comfortable with that view of your bedroom
"Laura, I'm trying to cure my insomnia, not write my memoirs!"
Laura's investigative instincts bobbed to the surface. "But
there's a chapter in there that explains it all. Why you can't
Some childhood trauma or -"
Steele reacted with a slight wince. "That's a bit of a reach,
I've only had the problem since the Lindstrom case."
Laura put one hand against his chest in a restraining gesture.
don't pay me enough to psychoanalyze a man with five different
and five different names. Tell it to your shrink."
"But, Laura -"
"I hope he doesn't send five bills."
"Speaking of assumed identities, what about the agency's
Laura squared her shoulders. "Dr. Sobel is a professional.
medical ethics. He'd never betray a confidence."
"Neither would Remington Steele." He gave a slight
bow in her direction.
"Your little deception is safe with me."
"I never said it was a lifetime sentence." Laura fought
off a wave of
anxiety. What if the cure was for Mr. Steele not to be Mr. Steele
anymore? "You don't have to be so noble."
Steele looked gravely offended. "You've never accused me
"I take it back." She idly smoothed his lapel.
Steele wasn't fooled by her show of unconcern. He knew that where
agency was concerned, Laura could calibrate each element of risk
nearest decimal point. Yet, he quietly marveled, for his sake
willing to roll the dice. She had been from the beginning. The
realization hit him squarely in the heart.
"Tell Dr. Sobel to keep his lousy paws off my figment. I'd
like him back
in one piece."
"So would I, Miss Holt. So would I."
- To Part
Readers who were
in Los Angeles in 1983, the year of this story, may
remember the screening of Hitchcock's "Vertigo" (pre-restoration).
Martin Scorsese, among other luminaries, made an impassioned
donations to the cause.
Speaking of cinema history, I couldn't resist the inclusion of
Frank's, not only for the obvious reasons, but because Raymond
wrote most of the screenplay for "The Big Sleep" while