Steele Upon A Mattress - Part Twelve
Date: Saturday, April 26, 2003
Lauryn Poynor <>



Lauryn Poynor

(Special thanks to Susannah for assistance with geography and plein air


Laura handed a stack of files to Bernice. "After you finish color coding
and alphabetizing these invoice folders, maybe we can get a handle on
exactly where our money is going."

Murphy jerked his thumb in the direction of Steele's office. "Laura, you
know where. If you want to cut to the chase I'd go straight to 'A' for
apartment or 'B' for bookie, or -"

"You forgot 'B' for bimbo," cut in Bernice. "Or 'B' for Bruno."

"'C' for checking account," continued Murphy, with a smirk.

Steele poked his head out of the office door. "Try 'C' for coincidence,
amazing, eh? Miss Holt and I were indulging in a game of word
association just two days ago. Of course, it goes without saying your
efforts pale by comparison. I'd file them under 'A' for amateur."

Murphy squared his shoulders. "You seem to forget who the professionals
are around here."

Steele smiled beatifically at his adversary. "I've always filed you
under 'P' for plaid."

Laura had heard enough. "I vote for 'P' for peace and quiet." She blew
past Steele, who was still lounging in the doorway, and strode over to
his desk.

"Laura, what are you doing?" Steele followed, torn between amusement and

"I'm looking under 'D' for debts." She frowned at finding his desk
drawers virtually empty except for a notepad with doodles, a 'Daily
Racing Form', and some spare cufflinks. "I want to know if you have any
stray bills hidden up your sleeve."

Steele shut the office door. "Think how awkward that would be. I carry
bills in my wallet, though never in bulk -"

"Thanks for the reminder," Laura said with a saccharine smile. She
switched in mid-drawer pull to the cadence of a drill sergeant. "Empty
your pockets."

Steele obligingly pulled out the pocket linings of his trousers. "Breath
mint?" he offered, shaking one loose from an unearthed roll.

Laura took one and chewed it absently. "That's it? Wintergreen?" she
asked with the mien of a skeptic.

Steele removed his wallet from his jacket pocket and placed it on the
desk. He accompanied the gesture with a sly grin. "If you'd like to
frisk me I promise I won't resist."

Laura put up both palms in a "hands off" gesture. "No," she said
emphatically. "I don't want to -- never mind." Thinking better of her
impulse she picked up the wallet and surrendered it to Steele without
looking in it. "Bills. Red ink. Story of my life," she said flatly, a
note of dejection creeping into her voice.

Steele put an arm around her shoulders. "Laura," he countered with
sudden conviction. "Not so. I refuse to believe that the sum total of
your existence is contained in those file folders of yours."

"Stop trying to cheer me up."

"Merely stating the obvious. I'm sure Doctor Sobel would agree with me."

"Dr. Sobel?" Laura blinked in surprise, pulling out of Steele's embrace.

"Why, barely yesterday we were discussing -" Steele broke off with
apparent reluctance.

"Well, I shouldn't say. It's just that your name kept surfacing -"

"In what connection this time?" Laura queried, with an edge in her

Steele gestured expansively. "So many connections. I hardly know where
to begin -"

"Don't bother to tell me," Laura snapped irritably. "I'm sure it came up
in the most immature, flippant, sexist way -"

"Really, Laura. Dr. Sobel is a highly regarded professional."

"You know perfectly well who I'm referring to. You're really enjoying
this aren't you? Dropping hints and letting me twist slowly in the

"Can I help it if Dr. Sobel finds you an interesting case?"

"Interesting case?" The query slipped out before Laura could apply the

"Purely in an academic way, of course."

"He can hypothesize all he wants if it makes him happy," Laura said with
studied nonchalance. "I don't plan to put my life under a microscope."

"Aren't you interested in knowing where his fascination lies?"

"Not particularly."

"Not even a little?" Steele cocked his head, relishing the sight of his
sparring partner engaged in full-fledged denial. His eyes met hers. "I
know where mine lies where you're concerned, Laura Holt."

"Somewhere south of my navel, I'm sure," Laura snorted.

In the face of what Steele felt was not a wholly sexual admission, the
assessment rankled. "Some things never change," he returned sharply. "I
can always count on you to reduce me to my lowest terms."

"I'm a math major. It's what we do," Laura retorted, jerking her chin

"How boring! To be absolutely sure of the outcome. Never suffering a
random element to enter the equation."

Laura crossed her arms in a defensive posture. "I like certainty. It
appeals to me."

"I stand corrected, Miss Holt. Perhaps your life really can be summed up
in those file folders out there."

"I never asked your opinion," Laura shot back, bristling with anger.

"Of course you didn't. The last thing you'd want is for someone to
challenge those certainties of yours."

"Just because I like things to be orderly -"

"There's a difference between being orderly and being compulsive -"

"How would you know? More amateur psychology?"

"I've learned a thing or two on the psychiatrist's couch," Steele
assured her.

"What might that be? Avoidance? Game playing?"

"If anyone is expert at avoidance, it's you," Steele said hotly. "You
can never see the truth until it knocks you flat."

"All of a sudden you're big on the truth!"

"Well, at least I'm trying!"

"Do you want applause?"

"Don't bother. I got a more human response out of the Sleep Sentry

Laura tossed her head. "I see. Turnabout isn't fair play. You can dish
out the psychoanalysis but you can't take it."

"Need I remind you that my skills at game playing and avoidance, as you
put it, kept your guilty little secret about this agency."

"You were the one who insisted on keeping it! And don't flatter
yourself. I could have done the same."

"Ah. There's an Oscar winning bluff."

"Bluff? I kept up the illusion there was a Remington Steele long before
you showed up."

"As Murphy never tires of reminding me."

"After you've jumped through the bureaucratic hoops at the licensing
board, a trip to a shrink is like a walk in the park."

Steele eyed her speculatively. "Then seeing a psychiatrist wouldn't be a
jolt to your equilibrium."

Laura's tone was as certain as death and taxes. "It wouldn't even
register as a minor tremor."

"That's excellent news," Steele informed her without breaking stride. "I
made you an appointment for Thursday."

A roaring silence fell.

"A wha -? You did what?" Laura exploded.

Steele took advantage of the confusion to launch a rapid-fire
explanation. "Our association kept coming up during sessions, you see,
and Dr. Sobel felt that in the interest of science, well, perhaps there
were issues that needed to be explored -"

"Issues?" Laura said blankly. "What issues?"

"Yours. Mine. Ours," Steele enumerated uneasily. "Issues relating to the
agency. Our respective roles, for instance. Our working -- or, ah,
non-working -- relationship."

Laura glared at him. "Just what have you been telling him about 'our'

"Nothing too surprising," Steele hedged. "I'd venture to say Murphy and
Miss Wolf have all heard it before."

Laura's insides turned over. "That's supposed to make me feel better?"

"Laura, the important thing is, at least you agree to a session."

"I never said I agreed!"

"You said it would be a walk in the park!"

As Laura replayed their conversation: hook, line, and sinker, cold fury
began to creep up her spine. "You manufactured this whole argument just
to reel me in!"

"Partly, yes, but -"

Laura's fists clenched spasmodically as she advanced on him. "I ought to
throttle you! You lowdown, rotten, bull artist -"

"I'll admit my original plan was to help Dr. Sobel get you, ah, on the
couch, so to speak," Steele said hesitantly, "but I see that my
enlistment strategy was -- unworthy of both of us." The truth was harder
to swallow than he thought. "Laura, I never meant -- I didn't realize --
that is, any advantages taken --" Steele broke off and dropped his hands
to his sides.

"Always an edge here, an angle there! If it was so important, why the
hell didn't you just ask me?" Laura railed in confusion.

Steele regarded her helplessly. "I don't know. I couldn't think." He
sighed heavily. "It just seemed that the direct approach was far too --
direct. I was afraid you -- I mean, if someone had told me a month ago I
would be an insomniac and that a Hollywood psychiatrist would insist
that the cure was for us to explore our relationship, I would have given
the bugger directions to the nearest asylum and run like hell!"

Laura searched his face. As if a balloon had been pricked she could feel
her anger deflating, the air rushing out of their argument. Try as she
might she couldn't find a false note in Steele's belated confession. All
she could sense was his mounting frustration at his fortunes and a
nagging feeling that maybe his hand had been forced. It was time she
faced a few facts as well. She'd prodded him into taking this circuitous
route to the psychiatrist's couch; whatever the outcome, she could
hardly abandon ship now.

"It sounds crazy -" Steele continued, rubbing his brow anxiously.

"I know," Laura said, as if she'd agreed with him all along.

Steele acted as if he barely heard. "If it would have done any good --
if I knew -- well, it was just a theory. Sobel has tons of them. He
has a bloody notebook full -"

"Mr. Steele." She put a finger to his lips. "Don't say anything. I'll

Near shock stopped him short, then guilt flooded him. "But, Laura, you
don't have to -" he entreated, grasping her palm.

"I said, I'll go," Laura assured him. To her own ears her voice sounded
perfectly calm. She wondered if he knew how uncertain she felt. "It
won't be a walk in the park," she admitted, chewing her lip.

"No, I suppose not."

"Maybe you can talk me out of it."

Steele's face fell.

"A little levity, Mr. Steele," Laura said with determined casualness,
wishing on the other hand that he would try to do just that.

Steele kissed her fingers lightly, feeling relieved in spite of himself.
"Laura," he began apologetically, "I'm not sure you realize -- that is,
I may have said things, perhaps unfairly, while encouraged to, ah, free
associate -- that may have given the good doctor a wrong impression -"

"That's your prerogative. You're the patient, Mr. Steele," said Laura
sensibly, brushing an errant lock of hair from his forehead.

"In these situations, wearing one's emotions on one's sleeve is
expected," Steele noted, with a shiver of distaste.

His pained look seemed genuine. Laura wondered how her evasive and
enigmatic partner had managed to fulfill that particular requirement.
"Speaking of wrong impressions," she replied, thinking of her own
impending inquisition, "you'll have to fill me in on your brilliant
career in government service."

Steele smiled softly. "If I must."

"You must. Danang. The rainy season . . ."

Steele pulled her gratefully into his arms. "Never did like the


Laura sat forward stiffly in the armchair, body language alert, like a
chess player awaiting an opening gambit.

"It seems like only yesterday that we crossed paths on the Harcourt
case." Sobel's manner was thoughtful, as though the matter still wasn't
entirely closed.

"I wish we had met under . . . better circumstances," Laura replied
carefully. Even though the case in question had been resolved with
difficulty, Laura felt oddly relieved to be discussing it. Past cases
were far easier to talk about than the mysterious past of a certain
conman turned detective.

"The truth was right under my nose," Sobel continued, "but you were the
only person who believed Harcourt was the murderer."

"If only you knew how many times I second guessed myself," Laura said
with a rueful smile.

"I was his doctor," Sobel lamented. "I should have realized what he was
capable of." His lips twitched ironically. "I thought he was baring his
soul to me right on schedule every Wednesday afternoon."

"You were someone he knew he had to hide from. I wasn't even in his line
of sight, until the facts led me to him."

"I should have gotten there first."

"He's safely tucked away behind bars now."

"Maybe, if I'd just been smarter, I could have stopped him."

"Hard to say," Laura answered, "I think the mind of a man like that will
always remain a bit of a mystery."

"That hardly lets me off the hook." Sobel furrowed his brow. "There's
another thing about that whole affair that puzzles me. Not that it's a
matter of life and death."

"What's that?" Laura asked curiously.

"We both know who solved the case. Your elusive boss was nowhere in the

Laura hesitated, but only slightly. "He was out of town at the time."

"Yet in the newspaper accounts, Mr. Steele was given the lion's share of
the credit. Are you always so determined to stay in the background?"

"It's an arrangement we have. You know what they say. Behind every
successful man is a woman."

"Behind her is his wife," Sobel wisecracked.

Laura flashed him a look.

"Sorry. I've seen a few too many Marx Brothers movies."

"Don't apologize," Laura assured him with a sigh of resignation. "I'm
getting used to it. The movie quotes, I mean."

Sobel laughed. "I can imagine." He peered at her over his glasses.
"This arrangement you have. Would you say it's working?"

"Don't take my word for it, doctor. Check the front pages of the "LA

"It's working -- as far as the public is concerned."

"That's right."

"Is that the whole story?"

"Not quite," Laura said evenly. "I'd be lying if I said being referred
to in the press as 'unidentified woman' didn't . . . rankle a little."

"Do you think Mr. Steele is satisfied with this 'division of labor'?"

"He should be. It has a lopsided lean in my direction."

"When we met at the screening he said that he planned to assume a more
active role in the agency. Has that been the cause of any friction
between you?"

"No more than usual. I mean, from the beginning, Mr. Steele and I were
always . . . striking sparks."

Sobel wondered if he were being invited to read between the lines.
"Professionally? Or on a more personal level?"

"I meant, ah, in the office," Laura replied evasively. That wasn't
exactly a denial of the personal level, she concluded, remembering their
near horizontal antics in front of Bernice.

"I see," Sobel replied, giving her a sharp look. "Mr. Steele hinted at
something of the sort."

Laura started in surprise. Had Mr. Steele actually had the nerve to tell
Sobel about their little grope fest? She held her breath, waiting for
the ax to fall.

Sobel steepled his fingers under his chin. "How would you describe your

"It's -- complicated," Laura managed to say.

A smile played across Sobel's lips. "I don't doubt it." He paused as if
considering his next words carefully. "I have implicit faith in your
ability to solve any mystery, Miss Holt. Even the one presented by your
mysterious boss."

Laura's heart leapt to her throat. Which mystery did he have in mind?
"When it comes to cold, hard facts on a -- um, personal level, Mr.
Steele's never been inclined to be generous."

Her own curiosity had been working overtime since she'd walked through
the door. What had the two of them talked about? Had Steele's
misadventures in East LA come up? She found herself eyeing a slim art
deco floor lamp and thinking what a convenient place it would be to
secrete an eavesdropping device.

"Sweet little item, isn't it? Are you a fan of the style?" Sobel
queried, noticing the direction of her gaze.

"Hmm?" Laura murmured hazily. Something wireless and smaller than a
thimble would do nicely. Damn. She silently cursed her luck. If she
hadn't been saddled with scruples, her life would be a whole lot easier.

"The lamp." Sobel inclined his head. "It once graced the same dance
floor as Astaire and Rogers. It's from 'Top Hat'. I have a weakness for
-- movie memories."

Laura awoke from her daydream just in time to catch his words. "I'm sure
Mr. Steele must have delighted in your treasure."

"I don't think he noticed. He's been a little preoccupied."

"Oh." Was it her imagination or did Sobel sound rather worried?

"I need a second opinion, Miss Holt. Why do you think he can't sleep?"

Laura hadn't expected the query point blank. She groped for an answer
and came up empty. "I don't know."

"I've seen you in action. You can do better than that."

"It's a strange phenomenon, doctor, but my detective skills don't seem
to work on Mr. Steele."

Sobel seemed unconvinced. "How long have you known him?"

For a split second Laura was tempted to say he'd walked into her life a
few months ago and let Sobel figure it out, even tell him the whole
truth; maybe it would be best in the long run, but to ignore her
partner's stubborn pledge seemed like a kind of betrayal, and pretty
inconvenient to explain besides. Laura took a deep breath and answered.
"Since he first, um, headed the agency."

"Do you know much about his previous background?"

Laura shrugged her shoulders. "Only a little. Mr. Steele has always
cultivated an air of mystery."

"Then anything beyond his official bio is -"

"News to me."

"My theory is he may be going through a bit of an adjustment. I get the
impression his life was quite different then; that he played by his own
set of rules. Not the usual ones for a detective, anyway."

At his words the fresh memory of a cognac scented night in a museum
pricked Laura's senses; the coolness of marble, the electric hum of the
sensor equipment; skulking with Steele behind statues, then gliding down
a rope on a pulley block and into his arms.

She felt the need to take a breath as a hectic warmth suffused her skin.
"He does have certain skills of a . . . covert nature that I'd rather
not get into." Laura hoped the small admission could cover a multitude
of sins.

"I take it his approach can be rather unorthodox."

"And a bit dangerous, at times," Laura replied. It sounded better than
larcenous. "With Mr. Steele one is never entirely sure where a case may
lead." To the slammer if one wasn't careful, she mused. She backpedaled,
fearful of giving a wrong impression. "Not to say that his dealings with
clients are anything less than above board." He'd been quite trustworthy
on that score. As long as she kept him on a short leash.

"No cause for complaint there?"

"Well," Laura replied, "he once gave a dead client a last cigarette, but
that was only because my mother was visiting." She winced. She hadn't
meant that quite the way it sounded.

Sobel raised an amused eyebrow. "I'd like to hear that story someday."

"Perhaps Mr. Steele will write his memoirs," Laura said, tongue now
firmly in cheek.

"I got the feeling in our sessions that he found his current job
description a little confining. Maybe I was wrong," Sobel laughed.

"If he's looking for novel experiences, I'm sure I could find some
paperwork for him to do." Laura said dryly.

Sobel looked amused. "Somehow I don't think that's his strong suit.
Perhaps it's a result of early conditioning. I imagine, working under
contract for the government, he had secretaries for that kind of thing."

"Early conditioning?" Laura clenched her jaw. "Well, times have changed.
It's the 80's now. He can get eye strain and paper cuts just like the
rest of us," she sniffed, knowing full well she had no intention of
letting Mr. Steele get within a mile of anything more important than a
stack of form letters. While she had no doubt Mr. Steele had perhaps had
a secretary or two, it was probably an amorous diversion while he was
casing a bank or some corporate headquarters with a large, fat safe.

"Touch_, Miss Holt. Point taken." Undeterred, Sobel forged ahead with
his line of inquiry. "Mr. Steele said that you've been training him as a
detective, but that you'd not involved him in cases, well, as, fully as
he'd like."

Laura hesitated a fraction, not sure if Steele's definition of
"training" was the same as her own. "I know it must strike you as a
little unusual." Laura paused a moment before continuing. "But he has no
background. Not in private investigation, that is."

"But he does have related skills?"

"Mr. Steele thinks of crime as an applied science, ah, that is -"

Sobel pricked up his ears. "Go on."

Laura gamely tried to extricate herself from the hole she'd just dug.
"His approach is a bit more 'hands on' than the theories I studied in
Criminology 101, but I won't deny it can be useful; networking skills,
contacts around the globe, that sort of thing." She gestured vaguely.

"Does he have any, for want of a better term, sub specialties?"

Laura was beginning to be annoyed by the man's persistence. "He's spent
some time in museums. The art world, paintings, rare artifacts, gems. He
has a good working knowledge of security systems . . ." Laura trailed
off; a few more questions like this and she'd need a dime to call her

"Not areas that one rubs up against every day in your profession, but if
the opportunity arose to employ his expertise -"

"If Mr. Steele implied that he wasn't given opportunities," Laura began
testily, "well I'd say he's been given more than . . . the law allows."

"That's odd. Because I got the opposite impression. That he was
restless. Champing at the bit for something to do."

"Mr. Steele has a very full schedule," Laura shot back, folding her arms
across her chest.

Sobel gave her a hard look. "Publicity rounds and photo calls keeping
him busy?"

Laura leapt to her own defense. "The publicity performs a vital function
for the agency. Besides, Mr. Steele enjoys the spotlight. The first
thing he reads in the morning is his own headlines."

Sobel smiled softly. "You forget. I work with actors. I'm familiar with
the type. But don't you think those headlines would mean more if he had
a bigger hand in making them? This arrangement of yours might be
convenient but it's not much for him to subsist on as a steady diet."

Laura had to admit, she'd never thought about what Mr. Steele's
headlines might "mean" to him; she always assumed what they meant to him
was a treat with his morning coffee and an excuse to buy a new suit.

"But Mr. Steele has had a hand in them," she protested. "At least lately
he has." Laura wondered if Sobel had any notion of just how hard she had
to work to keep the agency's titular head from not horning in on every
case. If curiosity killed the cat, Mr. Steele had nine lives.

Sobel eyed her speculatively. "I'm reminded of something Mr. Steele said
about you, but I'd venture to say it applies to you both."

Laura stared blankly for a moment, not wanting to think of the
possibilities. "What -- something?" Her eyes darted nervously in his

"He said you had talent; talent that, on occasion, made you a little

"Mr. Steele? Said that?" Laura was secretly pleased, then the backhanded
half of the compliment hit home. "Reckless? He's a fine one to talk
about reckless!" The thought struck her out of the blue that Wilson was
the last man to describe her that way -- and look how badly that turned
out. She felt a knot begin to form in the pit of her stomach.

"Still, it brings up an interesting point," Sobel said thoughtfully.
"Sometimes, for a partnership to work you have to let the chips fall, so
to speak."

That was easy for him to say, Laura thought. Where the men in her life
were concerned, her reckless side been a disaster. With Mr. Steele she
had even more reason to dull those instincts. Someone had to keep their
head; her volatile apprentice didn't need any more fuel added to the
fire. A sigh escaped her. Even though much time had passed since her
'frivolities' had caused the breakup with Wilson, it still felt strange
to be seen as the logical, rational one.

"As a woman in a male dominated profession," Sobel continued, "I'm sure
you've often felt hemmed in, hampered by others' expectations."

"That's true, doctor," Laura replied, focusing again on the question,
"but it hardly applies to Mr. Steele."

"Not in the same way, but I've been around creative people long enough
to know you have to give talent some breathing space, or eventually it
feels the need to move on."

His words kindled a spark of fear; Sobel had said Steele was restless,
champing at the bit. Had she been holding the reins too tightly? Was he
bored? Stifled? Did he want to leave?

Sobel's calm and measured tones broke into her thoughts. "I'm aware it's
a calculated risk."

Laura felt a surge of helpless anger. She knew plenty about risk. The ad
hoc association had been her gamble from the start. If it all fell
apart tomorrow she would be the one picking up the pieces. If he was
tired of being Remington Steele he could leave without a backward
glance, just take his five passports and five different names to some
convenient corner of the globe -- until the day his photo appeared in a
police blotter somewhere and law enforcement began to connect the dots
back to LA.

Maybe he wouldn't have quite as soft a landing elsewhere as he'd had
during his charmed life in Los Angeles, but that wasn't much of a gamble
by comparison. She was the one who should be having sleepless nights. "I
don't know why he gave you that impression," she snapped, struggling to
make sense of it all. "On the sleep clinic case he was very involved;
his role was crucial to the case."

"And that's where the trouble surfaced," the doctor mused reflectively.
"There would seem to be a contradiction there, but let's explore that a
little." Sobel peered through his glasses at his notes. "Mr. Steele
intimated that this case was rather different; both of you were working
undercover, he was assigned a role which made him a bit uncomfortable -"

"Uncomfortable?" A note of shrillness crept into her voice. "Is that how
he described it?"

Sobel calmly rubbed the bridge of his nose. "He felt playing an
insomniac didn't quite square with the image of Remington Steele."

Laura scowled. For a figment of her imagination, he had an independent
streak. "That's as may be, but it turned out to be the perfect strategy.
For the case, that is."

"Yes, even he admitted as much. Yet, he does seem to have very strong
opinions about his image, how he should comport himself in a given
situation, his reputation for infallibility, his appearance, his
unflappable exterior."

Laura could remember being on the receiving end of those opinions more
than once. She sighed ruefully. "He once told me that Remington Steele
never shows up wrinkled."

"Or the worse for wear in any situation, one suspects. It's a rather
tough standard to live up to. He must feel certain pressures."

Laura felt compelled to deny it. "We'll I never said he had to be

"Of course not, but you're his mentor, so to speak, in this detective
business. I'll wager he tries to impress you at every opportunity."

"Mr. Steele? Impress me?" Laura was taken aback. "I'd say he goes out of
his way to ignore my opinion."

"Even if he does the opposite, it hardly means you're being ignored.
He's still reacting."

Laura threw up her hands. "Am I supposed to feel guilty?"

Sobel shook his head. "Not at all. It's as inevitable as the laws of
physics. You act. He reacts. And vice versa."

"So. Where does that lead us?"

"A bit closer to the truth, maybe. I think he may have reacted by
throwing himself into the insomniac impersonation more fully than he
intended. Not that your involvement explains everything. I think your
Mr. Steele has picked up more than a few notions from the movies. He
certainly has a flair for playing to an audience."

Laura didn't need to be reminded. "I know what you mean. On a case once
he played a Russian Wolfhound so convincingly we had to put him in a
strait jacket. Thank goodness he was able to shrug that one off or we
would have had to stock up on chew bones."

Sobel eyed her with wry amusement. "You're not playing fair, you know.
With all these hints you've been dropping."

Laura smirked. "You mean Mr. Steele didn't mention it?" she said in mock
surprise. "You have my permission to delve into all of the Freudian
implications. Or should that be Pavlovian?"

Sobel grinned. "Don't worry. I'll be sure to ask."

"It's funny. Of all the roles for him to take too seriously, canine ones
aside, I never would have dreamed of an insomniac."

"Really? Why not."

"I'd have bet he'd choose something that would allow him to sleep until
noon," Laura said matter of factly.

"He's not an early riser, then?"

"Not since I've known him. I think it's safe to say he likes spending as
much time in bed as possible. Sleeping, I mean," she explained. Her
eyes widened. Why had she added that disclaimer? It was practically a
conditioned response. All of her sparring with Mr. Steele had made
talking about bed in non sexual terms next to impossible. Laura mentally
kicked herself. She didn't want the good doctor to start thinking along
those lines.

He gave her a sharp look. "That's what I thought you meant, Miss Holt.
Though if you'd like to enlighten me otherwise, I'm all ears."

Laura tried her best to sound businesslike. "I was only thinking of how
Mr. Steele spends his mornings, um, that is, I mean, his aversion to
schedules that start before lunch."

"I see. If you can manage it a set work schedule would be good for him,
but I'm sure it's an uphill battle."

"I'll do my best to keep Mr. Steele, uh, vertical." Laura assured him.
It was certainly safer than horizontal.

"Never was good with heights," Sobel mused. "I make Scotty Ferguson in
'Vertigo' seem like Sir Edmund Hilary."

"We all have our phobias, I guess."

"Do you and Mr. Steele often go to the movies? Maybe take in some
Hitchcock films or other classics?"

"Not as often as he'd like," Laura laughed. "I'd never get any work

"Actually, I was thinking that it might make your case work a little
easier. You could learn to translate his particular brand of short

"Sounds like playing secretary again." Laura was dubious.

"I think it could be fairly painless. Seeing a couple of films a week,
maybe reading a book or two on the subject."

"Oh, fine." Laura crossed her arms. "I think Mr. Steele needs to learn a
few things about skip tracing and filing systems."

"Fair enough. Make it a quid pro quo sort of thing. The important thing
is to keep the lines of communication open."

It sounded like a good idea, Laura thought. If they could surmount this
language barrier, the enigmatic Mr. Steele might open up about other
things . . . someday. "I suppose it couldn't hurt," she offered.

"I'd be glad to suggest some books. I'm sure Mr. Steele will have no
trouble coming up with films to see."

"I have a feeling I'm going to become intimately acquainted with
Humphrey Bogart."

"And that's a bad thing?" Sobel joked.

"Don't you start," Laura warned.

"Cagney was always my favorite anyway." Sobel looked thoughtful for a
moment. "Are there any cases in the works that would interest Mr.

Laura's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "Do you think that's wise? To get
him involved in a case right now?"

"It might be a good form of therapy. It would occupy his thoughts with
something other than his sleep problem."

"You don't think he'd overdo it?"

"I'm not suggesting a double homicide or a multiple kidnapping. Just
something relatively stress free that might pique his interest. A minor
art theft, say, or a museum security contract."

"I'm afraid we're fresh out. The art market's taken a downturn recently,

Sobel looked faintly disappointed. "That was my best case scenario. Do
you have anything else on the menu?"

"Not really." Laura said, after thinking a minute. "Everything is either
nearly wrapped up or a bit 'C and D' for Mr. Steele's, ah, style of
deductive reasoning."

"C and D'?"

Laura laughed. "I have a shorthand of my own. 'C and D'. Cut and dried."

"Gotcha." He thought for a moment. "If you're really stumped for cases,
I have a few contacts of my own. In law enforcement and in movie making
circles. Can you make it here day after tomorrow?"

"I think so."

"Maybe I can dig up something of cinematic interest for Mr. Steele. Not
too cinematic, mind you. No method acting required."

"That's a relief. I'd hate to think he was trading one set of neuroses
for another."

"Hey, don't knock it," Sobel said, with the timing of a vaudeville
comic. "It's good for business."

"Don't push it."

"Just a minute." Sobel walked over to a mahogany bookcase. He pulled out
a coffee table sized book from among a thicket of medical tomes. "This
should tide you over for a while." He handed her the volume.

"'The Great American Movie Book'?"

"It's a beginning, anyway."

"Thanks. I think."

"Don't mention it."


Steele stared back at his image in the glass; he'd never realized how
silly breathing exercises looked in the mirror. How did actors do it? To
relax, yet? It was a moot point, he decided, sinking back down on the
bed. Nothing could short circuit his high voltage state of anxiety.

Foremost on his mind was Laura. She'd never made it back to the office
and the suspense was nearly proving fatal. What was Dr. Sobel telling
her and what was she telling him? Despite assurances to the contrary,
was it open season on his sexual fantasies? On his word games starting
with the letter "o"? Steele absently chewed a thumbnail.

Like a steady drip from a faucet, the thought nagged at him that he had
only himself to blame. He was the one who had soaped Laura into it; her
stint on the psychiatrist's couch was his doing -- and he didn't even
know why he was doing it. Somehow, sitting there in Sobel's office, it
had all sounded perfectly reasonable.

There was nothing for it but to wait it out and hope he didn't go stir
crazy by the morning. Hoping for a respite, he turned on the movie
channel to find Bela Lugosi's occult gaze staring balefully back at him
through a graveyard mist. Hardly a tranquil image, he decided.

He ironically noted the ensuing advert for a sleep aid. "Safe and
restful sleep in one hour. Or your money back." He scowled darkly at the
TV screen. Like a revelation, it struck him that he'd heard that phrase
before, but with a decidedly Spanish accent.

He got up and fumbled through the kitchen cabinets until he found the
small, plastic package he'd remembered. Zapote blanco: the herbal
concoction he'd bought under the watchful eyes of the curandera and
several hundred Virgins of Guadalupe. He put the tea kettle on,
resisting an incipient urge to cross himself. Minutes later he poured
the steaming potion into a cup. It tasted awful, he discovered, as he
took an experimental sip. Perhaps that was a good sign. It wasn't
precisely what the doctor ordered, but he'd always believed in being
prepared for every contingency.


Steele studied his partner from a safe distance. "Pardon my curiosity,
Miss Holt, but while you were under analysis, so to speak, what Freudian
fantasies were revealed, eh?"

"Yours or mine, Mr. Steele?" Laura smirked, as she rounded her desk to
check her phone messages.

Steele's eyes darted warily in her direction. "You tell me."

"Oh, I couldn't possibly without blushing."

Steele's thoughts raced uneasily. "Laura Holt. The Wizard of the Id. Got
into the spirit, did you?"

Laura dawdled over the question, intent on dragging out the suspense.
"Sigmund would have been proud of me. So many 'issues', so little time.
The good doctor needed a second notebook."

"Medical history in the making, eh?" Steele's collar suddenly felt

"I'll say," she replied airily. "The subject of your stint in a strait
jacket did raise an eyebrow. I felt it was only fair to warn him that at
one time Remington Steele was barking mad. Remember? Your wolfhound

"Laura, you didn't!" Steele was mortified.

Her eyes danced with mischief. "Murphy still gets on my case about
taking in strays. If only I'd listened."

Steele smiled sourly. "I'll just have to remind Mr. Michaels that every
dog has his day."

"It was the leash I could do." Laura grinned irrepressibly at her own
brand of wit.

Steele winced. "I wouldn't give that joke a home either. Did you talk
about anything of a more human variety?"

"Well, mostly we discussed your therapy."

"Therapy?" Steele wasn't sure he liked this turn in the conversation

"A crash course, Mr. Steele. For honest to goodness detectives.
Principles of skip tracing, autopsy reports, filing systems . . ." Laura
ticked the items off on her fingers.

Steele was appalled. "Laura, we've tried the boredom gambit before,
remember? A resounding failure as I recall."

"If at first you don't succeed. You said you wanted to take a more
active role in the agency."

"And what will you be doing in the meantime?" Steele snapped

"Oh, munching popcorn and raisinettes."


"Going to the movies, Mr. Steele." She breezed past him with an airy
wave, retrieving her fedora from the hat rack.

Reflexes at the ready, Steele grabbed her by the arm. "Not so fast, Miss
Holt. I think you have some explaining to do!"


It was a balancing act a tightrope walker would envy, but Laura was
trying to make it work. She'd cut back on Steele's appearances at yawn
inducing charity events, she'd confounded Murphy by letting Steele get
in a word or two edgewise in a "real detective" discussion, and she'd
bewildered Bernice by adding movie annotations in the margins of her
case reports.

"Murphy, I think she's finally cracked," said Bernice with a worried

Laura smiled dreamily. "I love the smell of popcorn in the afternoon."
She glanced at her watch. "Matinee's in thirty minutes. Ciao."

"I've got a bad feeling about this," said Murphy, shaking his head


"Mr. Steele. You're looking chipper this morning. Relaxing weekend?" She
regarded him quizzically from across the desk.

Steele reached her in nearly a single bound and twined his arms around
her waist. "Positively decadent, Miss Holt," he murmured against her
cheek. "It only needed one more thing to make it complete."

"Oh?" Laura prompted, a bit bleary-eyed from watching the late show the
night before. Her partner certainly seemed suspiciously energetic.

"The right someone to share it with. I spent the whole time in bed.
Assumed more prone positions than a Charlotte Knight omnibus."

Mindful of Bernice in the next room, Laura slipped out of his embrace.
"If you were in bed then you must have seen the Tracy and Hepburn

"Not a lick of it. Slept like a rock."

Laura's eyebrows shot up. "Adam's Rib'?" "'Pat and Mike'?" "'Desk Set'?"

"I did have a dream where this desk featured rather prominently. The two
of us made very efficient use of it."

Laura rolled her eyes. "I take it neither of us got any sleep."

"No harm done. Actually, I've slept sound as a babe for the past six

Laura gaped at him. Had she heard him correctly? "Six nights? In a row?"

"But who's counting, except for toting up a few stray sheep."

Laura grabbed him by the shoulders. "Mr. Steele, I don't want to alarm
you -- but that sounds suspiciously like a cure."

"Shh!" Steele stepped back and put a finger to his lips. "Don't say it
too loudly. I'm not ready to shout it from the rafters just yet."

"But -- I don't understand." Laura was nonplussed. "How did it happen?"

Steele thought for a moment. "Haven't a clue. Slept right through it,

"Six days, though. That's a good sign, isn't it?"

"Dr. Sobel was optimistic."

"Oh, you called him then," Laura said in surprise. "That reminds me. I
have an appointment tomorrow."

"Excellent. Keep up the good work."

"Wait a minute!" Laura did the math in her head. "Six days! That was two
of my appointments ago!"

Steele glanced innocently at the clock. "Time flies, doesn't it?"

"You've been cured all of this time -- and you never even bothered to
tell me!" Laura shrilled.

"Well, one wants to be sure. Didn't Dr. Sobel mention it?"

"Not even a hint."

Steele rubbed his chin reflectively. "Hmm. Well, then. That certainly
proves my theory."

"What theory?"

"Just as I suspected. The good doctor found your neuroses far more
interesting than mine. Obviously, he's keen on continuing the sessions."

"But that has nothing to do with me," Laura protested. "It's for your
own good!"

Steele beamed. "And Laura, it's working splendidly."

Laura threw up her hands. "This is crazy. If you think I'm going to bare
my soul twice a week so you can sleep at night -"

"A small price to pay -"

"A small price? Do you know what he makes in an hour?"

"Perhaps you could taper off gradually. You wouldn't want the patient to
have a relapse, would you?"

"Try me."

"Here on the desk? Or perhaps we should convene at my flat to test out
the mattress. Wouldn't want a design flaw to hamper my recovery."

"Brushing up your Shakespeare, Mr. Steele? 'To sleep, perchance to

"Laura." Steele grinned and sidled close to her. "Are you ever tortured
by the thought that if you'd just slept with me in the beginning, none
of this would have happened?"

Laura smiled demurely. "No."

"You sure?"


"Ah." Steele shrugged. "Well, it was just a theory."


"Doctor Sobel. Just the man I wanted to speak to." Laura's sugary tone
dripped into the receiver.

"I was hoping you'd say that. I've been working on our little problem."

"So you have," Laura said dryly. "He's practically cured now."

"Mr. Steele? The word 'cured' would be overstating it, but he's doing
amazingly well. Practically normal sleep patterns for the past several

"Speaking of the past several days, I'm wondering why you didn't mention
this before."

"Well, when Mr. Steele called he was very excited but he wanted to wait
a bit before he told you the good news. Just to be certain it wasn't a
temporary reprieve. How was his weekend?"

"He's not sure. He was out like a light."

"Well put, Miss Holt. If only medical journals were so succinct. It's
going to be crucial from here on to keep him busy, keep his mind and
body occupied. We don't want him to slip back into his old habits."

Laura sighed. Why did he have to sound so eminently reasonable? "No. I
guess you're right."

"I'd like to keep touching base with both of you. Weekly sessions may
not be necessary, though I must say we did go over some very interesting
ground on your last visit."

Laura shifted uneasily. "I suppose you could call it that." She'd had
covered far more territory than she intended. He'd insisted that she
tell him the story of Khalil, the dead client who had smoked a last
cigarette; from that minor drama she'd managed to segue to Mr. Steele
(who was a catch and a half), her mother, Wilson, her bathroom sink, her
sister, jogging shoes, and back again. Sobel got well into his second

"I'm dying to find out how you ended up in the laundry hamper."

She'd forgotten she'd let that slip. "I was eight. And you don't want to

"We'll save it for next time. Actually, that's not the reason I called.
I have a case for you."

"A case?" Laura said blankly.

"A case. You remember. Something to keep Mr. Steele busy?"

"Oh, a case! Right. I almost forgot."

"It may not be quite what you're used to, but I assure you that it does
have some points of interest."

"What sort of case is it? Jewel robbery? Art theft? Security detail for
a famous celebrity?"

"Well, it's a notch above your 'C and D' rating. I guess you could
classify it as 'MIA'."

"A missing person?"

"Er, wrong species, right ballpark. A missing cat."

"A missing cat?" Laura was dumbfounded. "Let me get this straight. You
called in markers and scratched backs and pulled strings all over town
and all you could come up with was a missing cat? Couldn't the owners
find a pet detective? A moonlighting veterinarian?"

Sobel held the phone away from his ear until her tirade ended. "It's a
slow time of year," he began apologetically. "The only crimes people are
contemplating in Hollywood are what they're going to wear to the

"How's the market for fashion cops?"

"A little crowded. Look, I know it sounds trivial, but it's not just any
cat. It's Robert De Niro's cat. "

"Robert De Niro?" Laura echoed, her mind turning over the possibilities.
Imagine how excited Mr. Steele would be, not to mention the LA Tribune's
"Lifestyles" columnists.

"The big lug's crazy about her. He'll pay handsomely for her return, not
to mention, you'll have a standing dinner invitation to his apartment in
New York for osso bucco."

Somehow even the reward sounded a little dangerous; she didn't want to
imagine the alternative. "What happens if we don't find her?"

"Don't worry. You won't end up in cement. Off screen Bobby's a

"Even about his pussycat?"

"Well, he might get just a little . . . angry. Upset."

"Homicidal? Just make sure he's on his medication," Laura warned. "OK,"
she said resignedly. "I'll need deep background on the feline. Photo ID,
general description, distinguishing marks, favorite haunts, favorite
food -"

"No problem. You see, Bobby was staying at his usual suite at the Hotel
Bel Air. The limo was dropping him off and the cat got spooked by one of
Prince Charles's Welsh Corgis; took off into some jacarandas. They've
been searching for her for a couple of days."

"Where was the cat last seen?"

"Cadging leftovers at the Four Oaks restaurant."

Laura raised an eyebrow. "She has taste. I'll give her that."



2:00 am. Up a winding canyon road in Beverly Glen; the Rabbit is nestled
among the sycamores in a tiny restaurant parking lot.

Laura looked across at her partner, a smile playing across her lips.
"Who'd have ever thought we'd be doing this? On a moonlit night. Just
the two of us."

"Who'd have ever thought that Robert De Niro would have a cat named

"Even tough guys have a soft side."

"Laura, if only we'd come earlier we could have sampled the cuisine.
Become intimately acquainted with the menu. Then we'd have known exactly
what tempting morsels to offer our elusive feline quarry."

Laura shrugged. "Wouldn't have mattered."

"Laura, how can you say that about lavender smoked salmon with osetra

"We couldn't have come earlier. It's Monday. The restaurant's closed.
Wish it were open, though. They've even picked up the garbage. Not much
to tempt a cat's nostrils."

"Speaking of temptations, do you really think you should have sent your
cat Nero out as bait?"

"He's a big boy. He can handle himself. If I were a female feline, I'd
jump him. Besides, catching 'Cuddles' this way is a lot better than
giving chase, no?"

"You have a point, Miss Holt. I'm not climbing up any more drainpipes.
Too dangerous. Not unless you carry the supplies. I'm going to be
washing 'Meow Mix' out of my hair for a fortnight."

"Maybe I should send you out as bait instead." Laura sniffed the air
experimentally. "You smell like tuna fish. Or is that 'seafood

Steele ran his hands tentatively through his hair. A thought struck him.
"You know, I never finished telling you that story about the cat on the
roof. You see, there were these two brothers, one of whom had a cat that
he dearly loved -" Steele stopped suddenly and grimaced as something
hard and crunchy slid down his neck. "Never mind."

"What's the matter? Forgotten the ending?"

"I think I've lost the mood."

"I haven't," Laura purred seductively, grabbing him by his tie and
pulling him within kissing range.

"Your words are catnip to my ears, Miss Holt." Then his lips were on
hers and they were both more than ready.

As they broke away, dizzy with oxygen deprivation, Nero strolled up to
the car, with 'Cuddles' nowhere in sight.

"He lost her," Laura said, terribly disappointed. "So much for Nero's
animal magnetism."

"Perhaps he could use a few lessons," Steele replied, preening a little.

"Really, Mr. Steele."

"Stick with me," he said to Nero. "I'm a master."

Laura frowned dubiously. She got out of the car and scooped up Nero. I
think it's time for Plan 'C.'" She got back in, deposited the cat on the
floor and dug in her purse, unearthing a small vial. She handed it to

Steele squinted at the label. "'Stray Cat Strut Kitty Kologne'?"

"Where animal magnetism fails, the chemistry lab steps in. The lady at
the pet shop said it would give him an air of illicit danger."

"Not the sort of cat one would bring home to mother, eh?" Steele handed
the cologne gingerly back to her.

Laura tested the nozzle, spraying a short burst. "Not with her asthma."
Laura punctuated the statement with a sneeze.

"Gesundheit." Steele fanned the air. "That 'cologne' is deadly at close
range. Are you sure you want to do this?"

"Got any better suggestions?"

"Not really. I'll let you have the honors. He dislikes me enough

"I knew I should have listened to my mother and had Nero declawed."


Laura stirred, noting through one half open eye that the sun was up. Had
they really spent all night in the car? Somehow, she didn't mind at all.
She looked over at her still sleeping partner. "Mr. Steele?" When she
got no response, she nudged him gently.

"Hmm?" Steele started awake and blinked at her.

"I just realized something."

"What's that?" he said, frowning slightly.

"A very important something."

"Yes?" A comma of hair fell over his left eye.

"Finally. We're sleeping together."

Steele's eyes widened in surprise. "So we are."

Slowly, they smiled at each other, luxuriating in the moment, unwilling
to let it go.

At last, Steele broke the silence. "Sleeping together. That has such a
nice ring to it."

"I agree, Mr. Steele. I agree."