Ok, Part 9 it is. "Steele"
not complete, so WIP non-readers beware.
Getting closer, though. Feedback always appreciated.
Steele Stainless (Part 9)
Wednesday, December 22
On Wednesday evening, Laura proclaimed that she'd like to see the Katherine
Hepburn marathon on the classic movie channel. Miranda and Remington
eagerly settled in for Bringing Up Baby. Katherine Hepburn's antics
reminded Remington of a fortune teller he knew in his days at the circus.
He told a fascinating story about her insistence that he would never know
himself or be content until he knew when and where he was born. He
elaborated that she swore those two facts were the most influential in a
Miranda shrugged and grabbed another
handful of popcorn, "I don't know
exactly when I was born. I only say I'm 23 because that would match the
grade they put me in when I started school. I might be older, I just look
young enough to play the part" Miranda batted her eyelashes jokingly.
Remington cocked his head to one side,
"Laura, it's uncanny. Those are
Miranda's eyes. Like yours, but darker. And her nose and chin--everything
reminiscent of her, but with something else ."
"Tell me about her." Miranda
looked at Laura, "The whole story. It's
something I'd like to hear from both of you."
Laura and Remington looked at each
other. The hurt still burning between
them. Finally, Laura spoke, "We went back to Ireland. Always chasing
ghosts. It was the off season, so we had the castle to ourselves. She was
only just 4 and since coming to Ireland, she had been tireless; wanting to
see and do and touch everything. We'd been lucky and seen a foal born in
the stable. We rode in the carriage in the afternoons and played in the
garden after dinner. Most nights we were exhausted by bedtime. That night
I went to bed especially early. Remington stayed up late with Miranda
watching television. In the morning they were gone. The police found
evidence of a struggle in the garden. We got a ransom note for the both of
them. We all tried to find them. We paid the money but the place we were
told to look was empty. The police said we'd been double crossed. I knew
better. I knew he'd escaped with her and was only waiting until it was safe to come back to me. But he never did. Later, I thought he'd gone because
he finally had what he wanted--he had his family--and didn't need me
anymore. Everyone felt sorry for me. People tiptoed when I was in the room and nobody wanted to hire a grieving widow and mother. We managed to stay
afloat by changing the name of the agency to reflect a family name rather
than recall the name of a man who'd vanished. I hired new associates and
sunk back into the shadows, did a lot of paperwork, kept quiet and out of
the spotlight. It not only kept the agency afloat, we kept growing. After
most of the anger faded I got bored. When you came in I was intrigued,"
Laura looked at Miranda. "It had worked once, why not have another fake?
Everyone just assumed you'd returned together. We made excuses everyone
wanted to believe--everybody loves a family reunion. We were all over the
papers; business boomed. It was just a matter of pretending you were her
and he was real. I'd done half of it once. And I hated myself for it, but
I started to feel whole again. At first I thought I was putting her
personality traits onto you. But then I realized that you had already
developed them. You really are so much like her. So much like I imagined
she would become."
"You thought we--I just left with her?" Remington was aghast. "You're part of that family, too."
"What was I supposed to think?" Laura's voice was sad, not angry.
"That's not the way it happened." His voice was even sadder.
"How," Miranda interrupted, "how did it happen?"
He looked straight into Laura's eyes,
"We were watching television
downstairs but neither of us could sleep. We went for a walk in the garden. I was telling her some silly story and we both fell asleep. They came
just after midnight. There must have been five of them. One grabbed for
Miranda but I was able to get her free and I ran. But holding her I
couldn't move fast enough. I ducked around a corner and hid her behind the
first thing I could find and tried to attract their attention by running the other way. They caught me and held me down. Gave me some kind of injection to put me out. When I woke up I was in some kind of shed. I was still
groggy and tied up. They told me they'd hidden her and were waiting for
ransom on us both. I escaped after about a week and went looking for her.
I couldn't face you without her, Laura. That's why I stayed away. I didn't think you could forgive me. I thought about that every minute that I wasn't kicking myself for leaving her behind that that I don't even remember what
"A rock wall." Miranda whispered.
Stunned silence. Remington and Laura slowly turned to look at Miranda.
"In my nightmare," Miranda
began again, "it's a rock wall. You put me down
and tell me to be as quiet as I can. And I try. I try so hard. Every time
I have the nightmare I try even harder. But my feet always fall asleep.
And I always rustle leaves. And he always finds me. He always smells like
beer and stale bread. He always picks me up too hard, and then I wake up."
Nobody breathed. "It started just after I moved in here. I thought it was
just a dream. I thought I'd just been immersed in her too much. That it
was just my imagination projecting her into me. I never thought it was a
memory. My memory. But I think that's what this is," she looked
uncertainly at Laura, "I think I might really be Miranda."
"Yeah, honey. You are." Laura's voice was quiet but proud. "I thought you were too young to remember." Laura continued, "I hoped you were."
"What?" The combination
of such a realization and Laura's confession had
"I knew--have known" Laura said.
"How long." Miranda's tone was even but dangerous.
"Since the blood tests."
It was Remington's turn to be lost. "Now I don't understand."
"The insurance company made us
take blood tests to prove she was my
daughter." Laura clarified, "And therefore lawfully entitled to any
inheritance, the trust fund, etc."
"You fixed them." Miranda said firmly.
"I would have."
"But?" Remington already knew the answer.
"I didn't have to, honey."
Laura looked at Miranda, "We're a 99.998%
match." When nobody spoke, Laura continued, "You're not older than 23,
you're younger. You were born in 1986, in March-"
Remington interrupted, "The 30th.
At 4:48 a.m. You had the blackest hair
I'd ever seen and the most beautiful little toes."
"I know her bio. And I've never had black hair."
"It all fell out when you were
a few months old. It grew back brown."
Remington filled in. He smiled a little, "I told your mother you had
Miranda rose suddenly. She walked
to the kitchen and back. She looked from Remington to Laura and
back again. "That's what I saw in the office the
first time you came in. Not your resemblance to those old pictures, but to
two years of nightmares." She looked back at Laura "And you knew?"
"Yes." Laura nodded slowly.
"From the beginning?"
"When were you planning on telling
me?" Miranda's tone had turned to
outrage. "When does Miranda get a clue?" Remington saw the hurt on Laura's face. He'd seen it before. But before he could try to help her Miranda had turned on him. "And you. You must have seen the papers. You could have
easily known that newspapers all over the world were reporting that your
daughter had been found. You had no way of knowing I wasn't her. Where
were you two years ago? Where the hell were you then!"
My god, Remington thought, this is
what I did to Daniel. Remington waited
until he was certain she wanted an answer though he was fairly certain she
didn't want the answer he had to give. "I thought I'd failed. I couldn't
bring Laura our baby and I could face either of you. I thought you'd throw
me out. Not knowing how you'd feel about me was better than that."
"What changed last week.? You came waltzing into the office under no duress then."
"I realized that I had to know.
I had to see you. Both of you. I had to
know if you could have a place for me." He paused and almost smiled. "I'd
seen your picture in the paper and wondered what you looked like."
"The Awful Truth. Irene Dunne, Cary Grant. Colombia, 1937." Miranda cited the movie without thinking about it.
Laura looked at Remington incredulity,
"You'd quote movies at a time like
Remington continued, "I saw the
newspaper pictures but they never looked
like my Laura," he turned to face Miranda again, "so I knew you would be
different in person, too. I wanted to see what you'd grown into.
Miranda couldn't help herself. "And?"
"You're so much more than I hoped for."
"Isn't she." Laura agreed.
And just like that all the anger and hurt
between them was gone. They were just proud parents able to see their
daughter again together for the first time in a long while.
Miranda, however, was still angry,
"So you're telling me that my whole life
I've wondered who I really was and I finally find my mother but she won't
even tell me who she is--who I am?"
"I thought you'd be angry." Laura said.
"Got that." Miranda snapped back.
"I saw what your father went
through with his father. All the anger and
resentment. I didn't think I could bear that from you."
"And this is so much better?"
Miranda's voice became sad now as well. "How
did you think this would end?" a tear slid down her cheek.
"I don't know."
"All my life, I've imagined parents
who didn't want me--didn't love me
enough to keep me. That has tainted every relationship I've ever had with
another human being. Do you know that? I've never felt like I should be
loved, like I was good enough. If my own parents didn't love me, who
"But we did--do." Remington broke in.
Miranda turned to face him, "How was I supposed to know that?" Laura winced at the familiar words.
The doorbell rang. "Damn."
Miranda remembered her plans for the night and
turned back to her parents, "I've got work to do." She opened the door. A
large young man that Remington recognized as Ben from the gathering a few
nights ago stepped into the apartment.
"You ready?" he said.
"Just let me get my bag." Miranda wiped her eyes and went to her bedroom.
When she came back, Ben asked, "Something wrong? Somebody hurt you?"
Miranda glanced back at Remington and Laura, "You could say that."
"You need me to take care of somebody for you, Sami?"
"Not worth your time. Hermes, come." And they left.
They had barely closed the door when
Remington turned to Laura, "What kind
of work does a 21 year old girl do at this time of night?"
"Considering her outfit, I should think you could guess."
For the first time, Remington realized
that Miranda had been wearing loose
fitting black pants, a black sweater, and had picked up a large black bag
and hat as she left. He'd seen so many people in just that outfit over the
years that he rarely noticed anymore. "You're kidding."
"She still does odd jobs for her old acquaintances."
"You of all people should know that's dangerous."
"She's toned it down. Just does
surveillance and information gathering more
than anything. Going to stake out a warehouse tonight from what I
"If I remember correctly, something
you were ready to put me in the stocks
"Stakeouts aren't that bad.
Especially with those leviathans she takes
along with her."
"Not the act. The deception."
"Being angry about it never did
any good, did it? You did as you pleased
"A mate's a mate."
"I guess she got that from you
then." Laura was tired of arguing. Her tone
changed, "I'm sorry I didn't tell you. I was going to, but then-"
Remington put a finger over her lips, "Let's call it even, eh?"
In a dark car with three men reminiscent of Sean's stature, Miranda tried to remember to answer to 'Sami.'
"All right," Ben was giving orders from the front seat, "after she goes over the wall, not a word unless someone's coming."
"Hey, thanks for getting that money back" the man on her left patted Miranda on the shoulder.
"No problem. Thanks for straightening out my drive shaft."
"Anytime. How you been, by the way, Sami?"
"Not so good today, Tommy. You?" she replied.
"You gonna have your head in
the game?" The man in the passenger seat
turned his head to look at her.
"Al," Ben admonished form
the driver's seat, "she knows what she's doin'.
Sorry about him, Sami, he's new."
"You know the procedure?"
She enquired of Al. When he nodded she
continued, "That's all I need to know. Hand me the tranquilizers."
Tommy spoke, "I thought you said
these dogs obey commands, it's just the
wiring on the building we gotta watch out for, Ben."
"I have it on good authority
that they will obey me." Miranda answered.
"But after Merc comes over if one of them so much as moves in my direction
he'll attack it. We don't need that kind of noise or movement."
Sean burst into the Steele apartment
at the beginning of The African Queen.
Without pausing to catch his breath he blurted out, "I'm worried about
Mire's 'errand' tonight."
"You know about this, too?" Remington felt distinctly out of the loop.
"I've been watching her more
carefully lately. I was worried that she'd
been spending too much time on this one job."
"She's my daughter. She'll be
fine," Remington stood to make his way to the
kitchen, winking at Laura and smiling despite himself at that declaration.
"What do you know about your
daughter?" Sean was incredulous. "Do you know
where she learned to dance? Do you know that she's afraid of the dark and
that she likes corn flakes at night when she can't sleep? Did you know that
she's not as tough as she puts off? Did you know any of that?"
"I'm-" Remington turned to face Sean.
"Of course not! You've been
gone two years longer than you had to be by any
stretch. And now you're back and you don't even ask her?"
"We've been spending a lot of
time together." Remington defended weakly,
wondering what had gotten into the normally calm young man.
"Oh I know that. But did you
ask her what her favorite song is? Or what
she wants to do with her life? Did you know that she's 5th in her class and
she's just gotten used to having a family? No. All you talk about is your
pasts. But do you even know her real past? Sure she glamorizes it for you
to impress you; to make you proud. But do you really know what hell she's
"I think I might."
"You and I both know it's different
for a girl in that life. Did you know
she was locked in a closet for a week when she was 13 because a boy held her
hand on the street? Or that she has scars on her legs she won't even tell
me about? They're so deep they look like cables under her skin, as thick as
my thumb." Sean was shaking. No-one spoke for a moment.
"What do you expect me to say?"
Remington was flabbergasted by Sean's
outburst. "Do you want to hear that I did all this on purpose. That I
lived that life and wanted her to know it, too. Builds character, and all?
Don't you think I know what she's been through? Don't talk about Hell to
someone who's been there, mate."
"You're a family of damn porcupines!
You've all got your quills up to keep
from getting hurt, but all you're doing is just keeping out the only people
who might make it any better!"
Both men stared at each other. Laura's
heart pounded. Sean was certainly
bigger, but Remington knew how to fight to his advantage. She wasn't keen
on seeing the result of a battle. "What are you saying, Sean?" she
interrupted before the argument could go any further.
"I think this thing is bigger than she's let on."
"What do you mean?" Laura was beginning to pick up on Sean's worry.
"She's been going through security
models lately, but not for any client I
can find out about, and she bought a pair of infrared goggles. I'm not sure
she's just watching the warehouse tonight. I think she's going in."
At the Richardson Crystal warehouse, Remington, Miranda, and Sean agreed to
split up and locate Miranda before anything unpleasant could happen. Sean
came around the corner of the wall surrounding the building to find Miranda,
Mercury, Ben, and Tommy preparing for the job at hand. Miranda checked
Mercury's pack once more as Ben placed a board that was three feet long and
a foot and a half wide on the ground.
"Are you crazy?" Sean said
a bit too loudly before Miranda had time to widen
her eyes at him and make a cutting gesture at her throat. Sean came closer
and whispered loudly, "What are you doing?"
"Breaking into a warehouse, unless
you attract every cop in the tri-state
area" Miranda hissed back.
"You could get arrested for this."
"Not likely. These kind of people
don't call the police to deal with those
who cross them."
Sean's eyes widened this time and
he grabbed her wrist, "Come on. We're
going home. There's no way you're doing this."
Miranda twisted her arm against his
thumb and freed her wrist, "Look, Sean.
It's been a pretty lousy night up to this point and I won't have many more
opportunities to get in here once they notice the security system's been
tampered with. If they move what they're hiding it could take years to
track down again."
Miranda directed Mercury to stand
on the board and looked up at the razor
Sean looked up as well, "All
right," he looked back at Miranda and knew
better than to argue with her, "tell me how to get us over that wall."
Ben laughed ruefully, "No time
for armatures, I'm afraid." He grabbed
Miranda's other hand. She stepped onto his bent knee and swung onto a
sitting position on his shoulders without taking her eyes off Sean. He
hoisted Miranda to a standing pose and she stepped onto the top of the wall,
pirouetting to avoid the wire.
"I'm sorry, Sean." She
whispered, dropping over and out of sight. "Sit!
Heel!" they heard from the opposite side. Oh her side of the fence, Miranda administered a strong tranquilizer to the now obedient dogs. She whistled
and Ben, Tommy, and Al carefully hoisted Mercury above their shoulders,
angling the board over the top of the fence. He jumped down to meet
Miranda. She patted him on the head and pulled her hood up as the other
dogs fell to the ground, "Let's go to work."
Miranda sent Mercury around the corner
of the building to check for any
other dogs or guards as she opened the box that housed the electrical
circuits. Inside the metal casing the wiring was a bit more complicated
than she had expected. What are you hiding in here? she wondered to herself more to clear her mind than out of curiosity as Mercury came back around the corner. He sat on her foot to give her the 'all clear' sign and she took
green putty out of a plastic bag in his pack. After wrapping the putty
around two of the wires in the box, Miranda set the timer on her watch for
"Ok, boy. Door."
Hermes trotted back in the direction
he'd come from and Miranda followed,
hugging the walls of the building. When they reached an entry door, Miranda pulled out her picks and swiftly unlocked the door. Stepping inside, she
pushed her hood back and pulled on the infrared goggles. She brought up the blueprints in her mind, but that only reminded her of Remington surprising
her that day when she had been studying them. It was true that she'd been
looking at a security system, but not for a client and certainly not for
reasons her mother would approve of. Her mother. Now there were some
thoughts. She shook her head and tried to focus on the first turns.
Outside the wall Remington and Laura
had caught up with Sean and one of the
other boys. Sean was looking at the wall with his fists clenched and the
boy Remington recognized as Ben was looking at them as they approached.
Laura addressed Sean, "Where is she?"
Sean trained his gaze at Ben and then
to the top of the wall. Realizing the ramifications of his meaning,
Remington turned on Ben, "How long does she
"'Bout another 10 minutes or so."
Laura's face paled as she asked, "And if she's not back by then?"
Remington knew what was coming even
before Ben could respond, "Run like
To Part 10