Revised, Part 5/? - Steele By Your Side
Date: Tuesday, January 30, 2001
Carla Keehn <>

See Part 1 for copyright disclaimers . . .

Previously: The card was beautiful. Laura mentally sorted through names and dates in her mind, searching for an occasion that would warrant such a remembrance. She slowly opened the card and gasped slightly.

* * * *
The gruesome photograph inside was a shock in contrast to the flowery phrases of affection on the front of the card. The body depicted in the picture was burned, the flesh pitted and scarred beyond recognition. Holt swallowed hard and sank back against Steele's desk.

"Thinking of you on this special day . . ." Holt read in a shaky voice. ". . . as we remember the loss of our loved one, Lily Martin, and your part in her death. And as we continue to mourn the death of our beloved, so shall you mourn the death of the one closest to you . . ."

The words hit Laura like a blow to the stomach. She forced herself to continue reading.

"Her death will be avenged. Happy Anniversary - - Major Descoine - -"

"No . . ." Holt whispered. She and Steele had faced many
adversaries over the years but Descoine was by far the deadliest of them all. The arrival of Descoine's message and the threat it contained suddenly cast a new light on the Steele's disappearance. "Mildred!"

"Be right there . . ." Krebbs called from the outer office. "Who was the card from, honey," Mildred rambled, "It's from the boss, right?"

"No it's not from Mr. Steele . . ." Laura swallowed hard. "The card's not important right now," she continued, trying to keep her emotions in check. She needed Mildred's help and knew that the older woman would be too upset to give her any if she found out about the contents of the card. "Mildred, get a message to Detective Jarvis. I need to know where Major Descoine is, if he's still in prison."

"Descoine? But why . . ."

Holt silenced the woman with a look. "I don't have time for any long explanations, I just need that information - and I need it right away." She took a deep breath. "Secondly, where is Fred and Mr. Steele's car?"

"Still out front, just like it always is. That's what I tried to tell you earlier, Miss Holt, Mr. Steele didn't run out on you, he's changed - -"

"Mildred, please!" Laura snapped. She could feel the poisonous message inside the card eating away at her composure. "I'm taking the car to Mr. Steele's apartment. I want you to ask Detective Jarvis to meet me there, okay?"

"Sure, but can't you tell me what's going on? Did you find out something, did something happen to the boss?"

Holt took the woman by the shoulders. "Later, Mildred, I promise that I'll answer all of your questions later. Just get on that phone - -"

As Mildred scurried into action, Laura felt guilt stab at her like a red hot poker. She'd been so angry at being stood up that she hadn't bothered to check out Steele's story about a client last night. Mildred was right - Steele was a different man. But she'd let her old fears about him cloud her vision. She'd thought nothing of it, at the time, but now she realized what a mistake she'd made - a mistake that Steele might have already paid for with his life.

Laura took a shaky breath and quietly opened one of the desk
drawers. She picked up the small handgun and gave it a quick
check. As a rule, neither Holt or Steele ever felt a need to
carry "the agency gun" as the two jokingly refered to the weapon. But now . . .

Laura slipped the gun into her handbag and hurried out of the office.

End Part 5
To Part 6