Steele Something Missing (1/1)
Date: Saturday, December 30, 2006
"Pat" <>
This is all SteeleFan's fault! Blame her!
Steele Something Missing
She was brushing her hair. He was watching her.
He liked watching her in the mornings, usually. But lately there was
something off about the normal morning ritual. When she stopped to pluck
hair out of the bristles of her brush, he realized what it was.
He was processing the new information as she resumed jerking the brush
through her hair in short, hard strokes.
She stopped and came to the doorway between the bathroom and the bedroom.
"You're going to be entirely bald, you know."
"Yes, if you keep yanking away like that. Bald as a cueball."
He stood up from where he'd been reclining on the bed, leafing through the
morning paper, and crossed to her. Removing the offending brush gently from
her fingers, he tossed it behind him on the bed.
"Now then, instead of abusing such a lovely head of hair, why don't you tell
me what's bothering you? Remember, the follicles you save may be your own."
She shrugged. "Nothing's wrong. Not a thing. Everything's just…perfect."
"Once more, please? You need to work that unconvincingly dead tone out of
your voice."
She sighed. "Really, everything's fine. I mean, look at us. We're actually
happy. No fighting, we work well together, we've managed to live together
for, what now? Eight months? Not one meltdown."
"If we don't count your cooking."
"And we don't!"
"That's right. We don't. So, what's the problem? And don't say nothing." He
held up a hand to forestall her. "Because your hairbrush is saying
"And you trust it more than me?"
"Of course I do. Your hairbrush never lies. You, on the other hand, fib like
a three-year-old with cookie crumbs on her nose."
She laid her head on his chest as a small burst of giggles overtook her. He
hugged her close for a minute, then gently pushed her back so he could see
her face again.
That's when she hit him.
A fast fist pounded down on his chest and her face twisted into a grimace.
"See? That's just it! That's what's wrong. It's all wrong!"
"What's all wrong? And while we're at it…ow. That hurt!"
"It's your fault! It's all your fault!"
"What did I do?"
"Not one damn thing! That's the problem! You haven't done one damned thing.
In months! Nothing!"
She twisted away from him and sat heavily on the edge of the bed.
Cautiously, he perched on the other side, ready to move quickly if occasion
"All right, let me take stock here. We can't be talking about intimacy,
because I think we've got that part fairly worked out. As for the rest, I've
gone to work with you every day. I've even gotten in on time. Of course,
you've made sure I was up every morning, so that's really not an
accomplishment, is it?" He paused, brow scrunched in consternation. "I've
done most of the cooking. Admittedly that was in self-defense, but still, it
has to count for something. I've taken out the garbage, been nice to your
mother, charming to your sister, and only had to be reminded twice to pick
up a birthday gift for Mildred this year. I can't see where I've sinned.
Honestly, Laura, I've been positively exemplary."
"I know! Damn you!"
"For what?"
"For making me crazy!" He'd have thought she was joking, but the blazing
light in her eyes said otherwise. "Do you know the strain I've been under?
You aren't like this! You've never been like this! Ever since Ireland, I
keep waiting and waiting for the other shoe to drop, but it never does! You
haven't overspent the agency funds, you haven't gone off on a lark, the
police aren't hunting you for some half-forgotten larceny, no old
girlfriends have shown up under the bed…you haven't done anything! I keep
expecting the worst and it never comes! You're going to give me a heart
attack if this keeps up! For God's sake…DO something already! The suspense
is killing me!"
"Do something?"
"Do what? What is it that would make this - better, for lack of another
She flung her hands up. "I don't know! That's your department, not mine!
You've never had to be told how to screw up before, I don't see why I should
have to tell you how to do it now!"
"Well, given community property laws in this state, overspending the
agency's funds seems a bit counter-intuitive. I've no idea where any of my
old girlfriends are at the moment, and I'm not sure, given my present
circumstances, that I could convince any of them to hide under the bed in
any event."
"There's always larceny," she said, helpfully grim.
"Well, I suppose there's always that, but - "
"But what?"
"Well, forgive me, but two things. First of all, there's nothing in town
right now worth the risk of taking. Good God, the museum has the damn Monet
exhibit again and I'm so bloody tired of the Impressionists I could scream.
There aren't any interesting gem collections in the entire state at the
moment. Really, Laura, I can't think of a single score worth going after
right now."
"And the second thing?"
"Well, now I have a positive stake in the agency, I wouldn't want to see it
destroyed. And my getting caught in the middle of a robbery, especially one
I'm not interested in doing, would pretty much destroy the agency. I'd be
cutting my own throat there, don't you see? Not worth the risk anymore, is
"So what's left?"
He bounced gently on the edge of the bed, considering. "Well, you could send
anonymous notes to random law enforcement agencies around the globe,
suggesting that they look into the background of a certain high-profile PI
in Los Angeles if they want to clear up any odd old cases, but again, Laura,
that would be risking the agency's good name. It's entirely up to you, of
course, but I don't honestly recommend it as a tension-reliever."
"So there's nothing?"
He grinned at her. "Well -"
She balled up her fist and half-rose. "Don't tease!"
"There's always sex!"
Her face cleared as she thought about this. "An affair? But with who?"
It was his turn to scowl. "Good God, no. Honestly, Laura, that's such a
cliché. And devilishly complicated besides. I just figured sex was a great
tension-reliever so we could work on your problem, um, together, if you get
my drift?"
"This tension thing, Mr. Steele? It's pretty much non-stop at this point.
Even with your stamina, I doubt you'd be able to wipe it all away."
"Well," he said with an unrepentant grin, "I'd certainly be willing to give
it a try."
She stared into space thoughtfully. "I suppose I could have the affair. That
might help."
"Really? You think so? But with who? I mean, you've been awfully busy
lately, Laura. What other man could you see often enough to seduce without
my getting wind of it? You know, this sort of thing really is trickier than
it seems. And a lot of hard work besides. Any candidates?"
"Well, Tony hasn't been heard from since the airport, so he's probably out."
"I think when you put your heel practically through his left foot, it might
have discouraged him just a tad. Unless it was the wild screeching in his
ear. But something seems to have put him off. I agree. He's just not a
viable candidate anymore."
"And Murphy's married now. Wonder if he'd care to fool around?"
"And which one of you would be paying the airfare between Denver and LA? I
think you're going to have to limit yourself geographically, at least."
She sighed. "Well, that boils it down to just one candidate." She rose and
picked up her hairbrush. "Do you think Fred would be cruel enough to charge
us overtime?"
"Probably not. He's always been quite flexible that way. But I think there
might be another solution."
Laura returned her hairbrush to the shelf in the bathroom and returned to
the bedroom in time to see him rummaging through the closet. He turned to
her and tossed something at her. She grabbed it instinctively before
realizing it was a shoe.
"We really need to stay in shape. What say we jog to work this morning!"
"Will that take care of my tension, do you think?"
He tossed her the other shoe. "I have no idea, but I think it might help
with mine!" Lacing on his own shoes, he headed for the door. "Coming,
"After you, Mr. Steele. After you."
The End