- Sun Sensitive Steele Part 6 (Final)
- Date: Sun, 08 Oct 2000
Lauryn Poynor <email@example.com>
SUN SENSITIVE STEELE - PART 6 (Final)
by Lauryn Poynor
Rated SPF 45 (Coppertone)
Some parts slightly R
Thanks to Anne Rose for beta reading once more. I appreciate
her invaluable help and advice.
Steele and Laura remained twined together in a slippery heap
on the floor, gasping for breath in the thick, overheated air.
Both of them lay nearly unmoving, adrift on a lingering wave
of pleasure, and in a state of near shock. Waiting for the insistent
pounding of his heart to subside, Steele grasped Laura's hips
and held her tightly to him, wanting to remain still sheathed
inside her body.
Without warning, Laura separated almost violently from him and
twisted out of his grasp. She ran blindly toward the wall, grabbing
her towel and clothes from under the bench. She hastily wrapped
the towel around her and pulled open the door.
"Laura, wait." Steele pulled himself up from the floor,
and onto his feet, but he wasn't quite fast enough to catch her
before she made it through the door. He peered through the clouds
of steam, searching vainly for his towel and clothes. He finally
felt the bundle under his fingertips and unrolled it, swearing
with impatience. He hurriedly pulled on his shorts, grabbed the
remaining bundle, and ran after her.
He looked frantically around the shower and exercise areas but
she was no where to be found. He ran outside the fitness center
and down the sidewalk.
Steele found her huddled on a bench, her clothes in her lap,
the damp towel clinging to her body. She looked up uneasily when
he approached. He stood inches away from her and waited for her
to respond. When she didn't he spoke harshly into the silence,
his tone a mixture of hurt and anger. "What was that all
about? Why did you leave?"
Laura eyes darted nervously past him as though she felt cornered.
"Anyone could have seen us, found us together."
"I don't recall you caring about that a few moments ago."
"That's what scares me. No, I didn't care. I didn't care
about anything. Not the fact that we could have compromised this
case, that Sommers or anyone could have walked in there, including
our culprit. We could have easily been the next victims. But
it's not just that. We're not ready for this. Not yet. What's
going to happen to us, to our
relationship? God knows where it's going now."
"Perhaps where it needed to go all along," Steele shot
back with a hint of defiance.
"You couldn't be more wrong. Can't you see that it only
makes things worse? Even more confusing. What we are to each
other is a mystery isn't it? You still don't have a clue about
my expectations, my needs - God I don't even know them myself.
I still don't have a clue about how you feel, about whether you're
going to be here a year from now - or even six months from now."
He started to respond, to reassure her, but something about her
doubtful, almost wounded expression stopped him. "So that's
it then," he said curtly. "We just pretend it never
happened. That nothing has changed? Are you going to deny what
A flash of memory and sensation caused her cheeks to flush. Laura
wrapped the towel more tightly around her, trying to forget that
she was still wet from him between her thighs, and that her body
still remembered the feel of him inside her. Even now she wanted
to touch him. He was so close, only inches away from her fingertips.
She clasped her hands in her lap, fighting the impulse.
Laura drew an uneven breath. "Are things really different
now? Because I'm not sure they are," she said sharply. "Did
those few moments, however pleasurable, really change anything
He recoiled as though she had slapped him. "Would it change
things if I gave you commitments, guarantees? Would you trust
them? Would that make things safe for you?"
There was only one way she could answer him honestly. "I
don't know." Her reply was almost inaudible. She looked
down, away from him. Her bare foot began to trace a shallow pattern
in the dirt.
Steele sat down next to her on the bench and gripped her shoulders.
His voice was raw with emotion. "Laura, look at me. Don't
turn away." He stared at her intently for a moment then
his expression softened. "If it wasn't safe, for either
of us, would that be so terrible?"
Her reply was halting and uncertain. "Maybe it wouldn't
matter. I don't know how I feel. I just know I can't do this."
Steele disengaged himself slowly and stood up, weary of fighting
her. "You're right Laura. Nothing has changed, has it."
He turned decisively and walked away without looking back.
Laura watched his retreating form stride down the path and grow
ever smaller in the distance. Their earlier intimacy now seemed
incredibly reckless. She had wanted to blame him but she knew
better. She had done something she had sworn she never would,
especially not with him. She had lost control and now they would
both have to live with the
What was it about this case that had turned everything upside
down? She had to admit, she had found going without clothes to
be surprisingly enjoyable. After her morning on horseback, she
had worked out nude in the exercise room with only a towel nearby.
By the time she had showered and gone to the steam room she'd
felt incredibly relaxed, almost sensual. When she awoke and somehow
found him completely naked and obviously aroused by her, it seemed
foolish and impossible to deny she felt the same.
Somehow in this charmed environment it had all seemed strangely
uncomplicated. But what would happen after this case was over?
Could they regain the comforting equilibrium of the agency routine?
Before this happened, everything had been humming smoothly, mysteries
were solvable, interactions were businesslike and buttoned down.
But now that she and Steele had crossed the line, let their passions
even the office would never be the same. Everything she had worked
for now seemed as breakable as glass. Part of her wondered if
he would even stay around to pick up the pieces. Hadn't she just
given him what he had waited for?
She shivered slightly as a freshening breeze blew past her. She
longed to get out of this wet, skimpy towel, take a shower, and
get back to the suite and into some dry clothes. She started
for the shower room of the fitness center.
She turned the key in the lock and entered the suite. She found
Steele wearing shoes, shirt and trousers, rapidly knotting his
tie. He removed his suit jacket from the hanger and quickly shrugged
into it. Turning his back to her, he checked his tie in the mirror.
"Going somewhere?" Laura noticed the tense set of his
neck and shoulders.
"Just into the city for a while," he replied, with
an edge of anger to his voice.
She wanted to explain herself, to make amends. She knew she had
hurt him. "I'm sorry about running off like that. I didn't
mean to. I just panicked."
He didn't answer or turn to her. Laura stepped toward him and
touched him on the shoulder. Almost flinching from the contact,
he faced her and said in clipped tones, "Laura, let's not
make this any more difficult than it is. I just need some time
by myself, OK?"
She stepped back and watched him walk toward the dresser, pick
up his wallet and keys and put them in his pocket. He walked
toward the door and grasped the knob, then looked back as though
he wanted to say something more. He moved unexpectedly toward
her in a few long strides and pulled her into his arms. When
he kissed her, swiftly and passionately, she didn't resist. She
began to respond but he pulled
away as if unsure of her feelings, or afraid of his own.
"Laura, be careful."
"Aren't I always, Mr. Steele."
"Almost never, but I admit, it's part of your charm."
He gave her a half smile. "I'll be back." he promised.
Then he was gone.
After Steele left Laura changed out of her damp clothes quickly,
pulling on some shorts and a sweatshirt. She perched on the bed
and pulled out her case file. Part of her was relieved to see
him go. She could concentrate on the case and not think about
the future or how much she still wanted him. With an effort she
pushed everything to the back of her mind, organized her notes,
and set to work.
Several questions regarding the case nagged at her. It was obvious
that the resort caretakers had easy access to equipment and their
duties allowed them to move freely about the resort. Accidents
had occurred during the tenures of both Edwards and Deerfield.
Did one absolve the other? Or was there some sort of connection
between them? She wondered
what Mildred had come up with about their backgrounds.
She called the office and was inundated by a barrage of uncomfortably
personal questions from Mildred.
"Mildred, we'll talk about that later. I need to know what
you've found out about Edwards and Deerfield."
Mildred detailed the already known facts about Jonathan Edwards'
sexual assault arrest and eventual release. Other than that,
his one-year record showed him to be an exemplary employee. Ethan
Deerfield's past was more of a mystery. In fact, he didn't seem
to have one. At least no past life more than about six months
long. His job application listed several previous employers,
all of whom were no longer in
business. He had a bank account but no credit history. Laura
wondered how someone with such a sketchy background came to be
hired in the first place. She needed to find out.
A knock on the door interrupted her thoughts. She opened it to
find Mr. Sommers standing there. He seemed nervous and upset.
"Miss Holt. Something's happened that I need to talk to
you about right away."
"I'm listening, Mr. Sommers."
"I just received word that the state of California has revoked
our license to operate. They had assured me we had until the
end of the month. Then I got this in the morning mail."
He waved some papers in the air.
"Isn't the resort a private club?" Laura asked.
"Yes, but we still have to be licensed and bonded by the
state. So do all of our employees."
"I'm curious about that Mr. Sommers. I've done some checking.
For instance, Ethan Deerfield doesn't seem to have a verifiable
employment history. How does someone like that get bonded?"
Sommers suddenly looked uneasy. "Do you mind if I sit down
Laura motioned him to a chair.
"I'm afraid I haven't been entirely honest with you. Ethan
Deerfield doesn't have a history because he's really someone
"Who is he?"
"Ethan's real name is Phil Trudeau. You may have heard of
him but I doubt you travel in the same circles. Phil Trudeau
is, or was, probably the most famous advocate for naturism in
the country. As far as most people know, he's still underground.
He has been in the thick of the fight for twenty years. Demonstrating
for nude beaches and resorts, fighting all sorts of harassment.
Some have called him a hero and some a militant. The FBI has
been trying to silence him for years."
"Does he have a history of violence?"
"Regrettably, it's happened on occasion. When he felt the
cause was just."
"Forgive me if that doesn't make me feel better, Mr. Sommers."
"I had to help him out. He had no place to go. He was tired
of running. You have to realize Phil would never do anything
to harm us. It would be a betrayal of everything he's lived by.
Besides, the accidents began before he came here."
"I agree, a lot of things don't add up. There are a lot
of people with access but what's the motive? That's the key to
solving this mystery. Speaking of keys, I noticed that a lot
of equipment seems to be under lock and key now - the electrical
panel to the hot tub, the tack room at the stables. Were they
locked at the time of the accidents?"
"I'm afraid not. We just never had a reason to do so."
"Mr. Sommers, I can't promise you that I can get your license
restored but I'm going to find out who's behind this. There's
more to this than meets the eye. If I find anything you'll be
the first to know."
"Thank you, Miss Holt." He got up from the chair with
an air of weariness. "Well, if you'll excuse me, I have
a lot of unfinished business to complete. I'll need to inform
the guests and staff of the state's decision."
"I'd appreciate it if you could delay that for another 48
hours. Otherwise, the guilty party may fly the coop."
"I'll try, Miss Holt. But I can't promise it." He squared
his shoulders and walked away down the path.
Laura decided to take a walk to clear her head. As she walked
past several of the villa suites she saw Deerfield/Trudeau unloading
some hanging plants from the back of a van. Mrs. Sommers was
standing on a chair hanging one of the ferns when she suddenly
lost her balance.
Deerfield was just in time to catch her before she fell. Laura
watched them curiously for a moment. There was something odd
about them, something she couldn't quite figure out. Their contact
had seemed almost intimate.
Laura walked along the path to the hot tub and pool. Inexplicably,
it seemed that someone had thrown a giant green blanket over
the whole area. She looked down at her feet and picked up one
of the bits of green. It was a fig leaf. There was a multitude
of them in various sizes covering the path and floating in the
pool. The hot tub was
"What's going on?" she asked a bearded bather who was
staring at the hot tub.
"NOONIES. They've really outdone themselves this time."
"NOONIES?" Laura asked, completely mystified.
"Local nutjobs. Morality police." He picked up a piece
of paper from the ground and handed it to Laura.
Laura scanned it. It only had a few simple headlines. OPERATION
FIG LEAF - OUR OPERATIVES WILL NOT FAIL. VICTORY IS AT HAND.
If news that the resort was closing got out, things would only
get uglier. She suddenly felt very sorry for Mr. Sommers. It
certainly seemed like the vultures were circling.
Steele turned on to Palm Canyon Drive from Highway 111 and entered
Palm Springs. He drove past streets named for Bob Hope, Frank
Sinatra, and Gene Autry. The city was a time capsule of old Hollywood
nostalgia. In the '20's and '30's the elite of the silver screen
had come in droves, and what was called "the Springs"
became a desert playground of the
stars. Gable and Lombard honeymooned here. Garbo, The Marx Brothers,
Elvis Presley, even Albert Einstein, enjoyed it's ambiance.
It was a retreat from the fishbowl of Hollywood. A hideaway for
celebs who worked hard and played hard, a place of three martini
lunches and clandestine rendezvous, where Sinatra and the Rat
Pack once prowled the streets and watering holes. Even now it
looked frozen somewhere at mid-century. Dramatically angled,
low roofed buildings in Fifties modern designed by architects
such as John Lautner and Albert Frey still dotted the landscape.
As Steele drove through the "village" or main shopping
district, the signs of charming indolence began to give way to
near decay. Many of the shop windows were boarded up and the
sidewalk traffic was dead quiet, populated mostly with retirees
and golfers. The famous quote of Oscar Levant, "Strip away
the phony tinsel of Hollywood and you'll find
the real tinsel underneath," applied even more to Palm Springs.
Maybe it was just the mood he was in, but the tackiness of it
all suddenly felt oppressive.
Steele turned on to Indian Canyon Drive and headed for the Racquet
Club. He parked by the curb and handed his keys to the waiting
attendant. The lobby seemed haunted by the ghosts of long dead
movie stars whose photos lined its walls. He walked into the
dark, wood paneled intimacy of the Bamboo Lounge where barstools
were reserved with plaques for Clark Gable, William Powell, and
Spencer Tracy. He was tempted for a moment to choose one but
resisted the presumption.
He found a quiet table near the back of the bar and ordered a
vodka martini. It wasn't his usual drink, but somehow it seemed
de riguer. The waiter brought his drink and offered him a selection
of cigars. He chose a Davidoff Havana and settled back in his
chair. The martini was excellent. Clean and crisp, with just
the right touch of vermouth. He had a feeling the martini wouldn't
be his last.
He nursed his drink and tried to forget the past few hours. There
were parts of it, though - incredibly wonderful parts - that
he didn't want to forget. He still found it hard to believe,
In his wishful imagination their first time together had been
completely different. He'd pictured a simmering seduction, a
passion's progress that would build slowly and still leave them
hungry for more. The reality of their lovemaking had been even
more intense, yet he never would have dreamed that only a heartbeat
after it was over she would twist out of his embrace and run
from him as though he were cursed. It had struck him like a knife
to the heart.
As close as they had become, he doubted he would ever understand
her. In his experience, sex usually uncomplicated matters rather
than the reverse. But things were never simple with Laura Holt.
What was it she said that night in Acapulco? "Wouldn't it
be nice if we could get there
together?" Did she really mean that? How were they ever
going to get there if she kept pushing him away?
He knew she had her reasons. She was risking a lot. Not just
herself, but everything in her life that mattered. The agency,
her career - all of it could disappear tomorrow because of one
misstep, one unwelcome ghost from his past. There were any number
of people who wanted things from him or wished him harm. Any
of them could show up like a wolf at
the door. He was almost convinced, if a crisis came, he could
leave her for her own good - but she would still be left.
Steele ordered another martini and removed his cigar from its
silver cylinder. He carefully cut and lit the Havana and drew
on it slowly. He idly watched the bandstand where the pianist
and a Sinatra sound-alike were checking sound levels. Then the
lights dimmed. The piano began to play the intro and the singer
stepped into the spotlight and began the first verse.
The night is bitter
The stars have lost their glitter
The winds grow colder
And suddenly you're older...
When Steele heard it he almost flinched. It was that most regretful
of Gershwin torch songs, "The Gal That Got Away." It
was not a refrain he wanted to hear. He started to get up from
his chair but then he remembered he had just lit his cigar. When
one lights a fine cigar one has to finish it, he thought resignedly.
The gal who won you
has run off and undone you
That great beginning
Has seen it's final inning
I don't know what happened
It's all a crazy game...
Steele leaned back, martini in hand, surrounded by the haze of
cigar smoke, and let the blackness of his mood wash over him.
Steele drove around aimlessly through the city streets for what
seemed like hours trying to clear his thoughts. He noticed a
folded green flyer lying on the car seat next to him. He had
removed it earlier from the windshield without looking at it.
He opened the flyer as he pulled up to a stoplight, recognizing
it easily as another bulletin from
What were they on about this time? Apparently something called
"Operation Figleaf." He knew it had not been on the
windshield when he left the resort. They certainly were out in
full force lately. He flipped the page over to the back and noticed
that there was a P O Box and street address. Perhaps he should
pay them a visit. Their rhetoric didn't impress him but could
they be more of a danger than he thought?
He drove along Palm Canyon Drive looking for street numbers.
He finally located the headquarters in a small shopping strip,
which looked as if it had seen better days. There were a only
few cars parked out front and a familiar looking Chevy Blazer.
Steele went around to the back entrance and picked the lock.
He stepped in and moved quietly down a hallway, stopping when
he heard voices coming from a small conference room.
"I told you that you would get your money, Deerfield. It's
already been wired to your account."
"I just want to make sure I get my share. The job's done.
I just have to take care of a few loose ends. Then you and your
buddies can pop the champagne corks at the statehouse."
"I've got to hand it to you Deerfield. Your plan worked
better than we ever expected. All of those years we wasted going
through the courts to shut them down and now it's finally going
to happen. This was a real sweet deal."
Steele ducked behind a water cooler as three men left the room.
He recognized two of them. One was Ethan Deerfield and the other
was state senator Trent McConnell. The third man was not familiar
to him but he looked like a political type. The three men exited
the building and Ethan locked the front door.
Steele stayed behind. He was thankful he had parked the Auburn
behind the building in case Deerfield recognized it.
He searched through various office files, not finding anything
useful. Then again, he thought, it wasn't likely that they would
keep something like this out in the open. He paced around the
office looking for possible hiding places. As he traversed the
carpet he felt a slight roughness under his feet. He lifted up
a carpet covered panel to what appeared at first to be an electrical
outlet. He smiled slightly when he saw the floor safe underneath.
The combination gave him no trouble and he soon had the contents
spread out for inspection.
He began with a large black ledger. He scanned several pages,
wishing he had Mildred there to make sense of them. He noticed
one page marked "Fig Leaf Accounts." There was a column
of several substantial debits from this account, all within the
last month. He quickly added the figures. He realized with a
shock that they came to about half a million
Surely some of that cash was Deerfield's payoff. Steele wished
he had followed him. He wondered if Laura could be in danger.
He had said he wanted to take care of a "few loose ends."
Steele located a nearby copy machine and dug into his pockets
for some change. He came up empty. Damn, he thought. Change is
so bulky. He searched through several desk drawers for a bypass
key, breathing a sigh of relief when he found one. He quickly
copied the pages for the "Fig Leaf Accounts" and put
the ledger back into the safe.
The remaining contents of the safe were a small reserve of cash
and what appeared to be a task force list for "Operation
Figleaf." He made a copy of the list and placed all of the
items back into the safe. He shut it and carefully replaced the
carpet panel. He replaced the copier bypass key in the desk drawer,
picked up the copies and left the building through the back door.
When he arrived back at the resort he looked for Deerfield's
truck but didn't see it anywhere. He looked down at his watch.
It was 11:30. He made his way back to the suite and opened the
door. The interior was dark. He could make out Laura's sleeping
form stretched out on one of the beds. He sat down on the edge
of the other bed and wondered if he
should wake her with the news of the case. He decided it could
wait until morning.
The exertions of the day had begun to tell on him. All of his
muscles ached from climbing and he felt vaguely fuzzy from drink.
He managed to find the energy to strip down to his briefs and
drape his suit over the back of a chair. Then he climbed under
the covers and fell to sleep, exhausted.
The next morning Laura awoke to find him in the bed next to hers.
He was lying on his left side, his face pressed into the pillow.
His lips were slightly parted, his breathing deep and even. A
comma of black hair had fallen over his right eye and his chin
was covered with morning stubble. He looked so peaceful and unaware
that she hated to wake him.
She got out of her pajamas and quietly slipped into the bathroom.
She turned on the shower and stepped under the force of the spray,
letting it invigorate her body.
She came out of the bathroom draped in a towel, her hair wet,
but combed out. She went to the dresser and found some underwear
and a pair of shorts. As she was putting them on she heard a
sleepy moan behind her and turned to find Steele pulling back
the bedcovers. He straightened up slowly and swung his legs over
the side of the bed.
Laura's thoughts were taking a detour into X-rated territory
as she stared at his nearly naked body. She gave herself a mental
shake and greeted him. "Lovely day, isn't it? How was your
He just stared at her without answering. She wondered why until
she realized he was staring directly at her breasts. She had
forgotten that she had taken off the towel to put on her panties
and shorts. This case was making her very absentminded.
"Hmm?" He continued to stare.
"Would it be less distracting if I put something on?"
"No doubt. But certainly less fun."
She rummaged through the dresser and found a sleeveless T-shirt.
She quickly pulled it down over her bare skin.
"Now. Maybe we can start this conversation again,"
she said in an attempt at a businesslike tone.
"I rather like the way the first one was going. Allowed
one to kept abreast of the situation." He winked at her.
She rolled her eyes in response. "Can't you be serious?
We have a lot to talk about."
"I have something to tell you. It's about the case."
They both spoke in unison.
Steele raised an eyebrow. "Is there an echo in here?"
"OK, Miss Holt, you first."
"I had an enlightening conversation with Mr. Sommers yesterday.
It seems that Ethan Deerfield is not what he appears to be. He's
a naturism activist named Phil Trudeau. He was on the run until
Sommers hired him."
"If he's a naturism activist, he's gone over to the side
of the enemy. I saw him at NOONER headquarters last night."
Steele went to his suit jacket and pulled out the photocopies.
"Deerfield is a NOONIE? Well that would explain a lot. Mildred
reported back on the other staff and guests. She found nothing
suspicious. I just can't prove Deerfield was on the scene before
"We may never be able to prove that but I have proof of
something." Steele handed her the account statement. "He's
been getting payoffs from a NOONER account. I got this out of
the headquarters safe. He met with two gentlemen last night.
One of them I recognized. Senator Trent McConnell. McConnell
wired some money to Deerfield yesterday."
"A state senator? It makes sense. Mr. Sommers came to me
yesterday and told me that the state had revoked the operating
license for the resort. I'll bet McConnell and the NOONIES are
behind it." She paced the room, lost in thought. Suddenly
it came to her.
"Don't you see. If the resort is closed the property reverts
to the state of California. Remember the terms of Gauss's will?
They can keep the resort shut down and millions of dollars worth
of acreage will be theirs."
Steele scanned the list of names for Operation Fig Leaf. He noted
Jonathan Edwards's name at the top of the list. He handed the
list to Laura. "Edwards, the maintenance guy who was fired
is on this list. He probably rigged the first accident at the
hot tub to get the operation underway."
"The NOONIES probably didn't count on Edwards being arrested,
Laura continued. "That's when they put Ethan in place. They
knew Sommers would hire him because he was a hero to the naturist
movement. He was the perfect plant." Laura grabbed up the
papers hurriedly. "Get dressed. We've got to warn Mr. Sommers."
Steele quickly dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt and followed
Laura toward the door. They opened it to find Ethan Deerfield
blocking the path. He smiled as he leveled a .38 at Laura's chest.
"I see you found the accounts. Someone used the copy machine
at headquarters last night. I knew you and Steele were getting
too close. I don't have much time to
chat. Sonya and I have a plane to catch."
"You and Mrs. Sommers? I saw the two of you together yesterday.
I thought there was something between you."
"Yeah. Sonya warned me about you two. Said Gerald was going
to hire a couple of hotshot detectives. Before he left LA to
find you I cut his brake line but the brakes didn't fail until
the return trip." Ethan glanced behind her. "No heroics,
Steele. Miss Holt will be dead and Sonya and I will still get
on that plane. We're going to round up Gerald and all of you
are going to take a soak in the hot tub."
"In broad daylight? With a gun pointed at us?" Steele
"Don't you read the activities schedule? It's our 'Summer
Sunday' Brunch. Everyone will be at the restaurant. Attendance
required. Just one big happy family."
"Where's Sommers?" Laura asked, dreading the answer.
"He's already down at the hot tub. He's still trying to
get the fig leaves out. How thoughtful of him." Ethan gave
a small malicious smile.
He marched them down to the hot tub area. Laura hoped fervently
that someone would see them but the paths were deserted.
Sommers was at the hot tub, his back to them, scooping up leaves
with a net. Mrs. Sommers was standing next to him.
"Sommers," Deerfield called out.
Both of them turned to find the group standing there. Mr. Sommers'
jaw dropped open in surprise when he saw the gun.
"Deerfield what are you doing?"
Sonya smiled and touched Sommers on the shoulder. " We're
just tying up a few things before we go. Now that the place is
closed we're free of it all. Phil and I can be together."
"Sonya, what are you talking about? You're having an affair?"
"We have been for months. He's taking me away from here
so I can get on with my life."
"What about the resort? I need you here."
"Wake up Gerald. The resort is finished. It belongs to the
state of California now, or it will soon. They can make millions
with this property. Sell it to the highest bidder. All that money
from real estate developers was being spread around like confetti.
We hatched a plan, Phil and I, to close this place and give everyone
what they wanted. Just as long as we got our share."
"You arranged these accidents - for money? What about us?
We had something together, a good way of life."
"Look at me Gerald. I'm fifty-three. Do you really expect
me to be a beach bunny for the rest of my life? We didn't have
anything here. We were just the hired help."
Gerald stared at Deerfield who was still calmly pointing the
gun at Steele and Laura. "How could you turn your back on
everything you stood for? You were a hero to a lot of people.
It doesn't make sense."
"Where were all of those people I fought for when I was
hiding from the FBI? They ran from me like I had the plague.
Said I was too extreme. Too violent. No one lifted a finger to
help me. I had to help myself. Sonya was the one who showed me
how it could be done. She got Operation
Figleaf bankrolled and convinced Edwards to rig the hot tub.
Poor Edwards. Couldn't keep his hands to himself. But then she
convinced Gerald to hire me and the rest , as they say, is history.
We tied Pariaso del Sol up with a ribbon and handed it over to
the great state of California - for a hefty sum, of course."
He motioned with the gun. "All three of you strip down.
You're going to take a nice, long soak - permanently. I have
a remote wired to the electrical panel. When Sonya triggers the
switch it's going to get very hot in there. Scorching in fact.
Now get those clothes off."
The three of them began to remove their clothes. Steele had been
trying to think of some way to get the gun but he was afraid
Laura would get hurt. Still, he was damned if he was going to
let Deerfield march the three of them to their own execution.
As Laura stripped down Steele noticed Deerfield staring at her.
The bastard was getting an eyeful. Maybe that distraction would
Steele made a sudden lunge at Deerfield and both of them struggled
for the gun. As Steele wrested the gun from Deerfield's grasp
it went off, a bullet striking Mr. Sommers in the shoulder. Deerfield
and Sonya made a dash for the parking lot, trying to get to Deerfield's
"Mr. Sommers, are you all right?" Laura asked with
"I'll be fine, Miss Holt. Just get after them, OK?"
Steele and Laura sprinted down the path.
"Wait, Mr. Steele. What about our clothes?"
"No time. We'll never catch them."
They reached the parking lot just in time to see Deerfield's
Chevy Blazer peel away with a screech of tires. The Auburn was
parked about fifty feet away. They ran for it and clambered in,
then realized they had no keys. Steele hot-wired the ignition
and they were off.
"Head for the airport, Mr. Steele. Maybe we can still catch
They could barely see Deerfield's truck in the distance when
they pulled onto the road. As they turned onto Hwy 111 they gained
some ground but it was going to be difficult to catch them. The
Blazer zigzagged insanely through the traffic, narrowly avoiding
a collision with an eighteen wheeler and a cherry-red Corvette.
Steele couldn't help but notice that traffic hazards of a different
sort were being created by their lack of attire, as rubbernecking
motorists swerved out of their lanes or slowed down for a better
"Laura, could you scrunch down a bit? You're creating a
"I am scrunched," she screamed at him. Damned convertible,
she fumed silently. If only they could have taken the limo.
Suddenly she noticed blue lights flashing in the rear view mirror.
A motorcycle cop was motioning frantically for them to stop.
He came alongside them staring in disbelief. "Pull over,"
he yelled out over the noise of the traffic.
"Love to, Officer but were a little busy right now. We're
private investigators. Remington Steele and Laura Holt. We have
to catch that Blazer up ahead before the fugitives get to the
airport. "Laura get the car registration out of the glovebox."
Steele grabbed it and held it up. "Sorry, It's the only
ID I have on me at the moment. Look, just help us follow that
Blazer. I'll have to explain later."
"OK," the cop agreed. But this better be good."
He called for backup over his radio and sped toward the Blazer,
siren blaring and lights flashing. The Auburn was close behind.
Laura heard a noise above her head and looked up to see a news
helicopter hovering overhead. A photographer with a videocam
was leaning over the side. "Oh my God. I think we're on
Candid Camera. How did they get here so fast? If my
mother sees this on the newswires I'll never hear the end of
Steele dodged a BMW and floored the accelerator, trying to get
maximum speed out of the Auburn's V-8. They closed on the Blazer
and finally overtook it. The Blazer was now sandwiched in the
left lane, the Auburn in front of it and the motorcycle behind
A Mustang convertible with three teenaged boys in it pulled even
with the Auburn in the right hand lane. One of the boys touched
the driver on the shoulder and pointed. The driver did a double
take at the sight of a totally naked Laura giving him a nervous
smile. The Mustang slowed slightly and the distracted driver
swerved hard into the Blazer, running
it off the road. Steele and the motorcycle cop miraculously managed
to avoid the collision.
Steele pulled over to the side of the road and parked the Auburn
next to the other vehicles. He gave Laura an approving glance.
"Excellent work, Laura. You did Claudette Colbert one better."
"We'll they'd better be satisfied, they're not getting a
The cop pulled his gun and went over to the Blazer. He handcuffed
an unconscious Ethan Deerfield to the steering wheel and assisted
a dazed Mrs. Sommers. He dispatched an ambulance to the scene
and checked on the teenagers who appeared to have only minor
The cop strolled over to the Auburn and eyed the two somewhat
sheepish and exposed passengers. The corners of his mouth twitched
in a smile he couldn't quite suppress. "Don't tell me, let
me guess. Cleaners wouldn't take a check?"
Remington Steele leaned back in his office chair with a sigh
of immense satisfaction. Reassuringly garbed in his new suit,
he felt ready to take on the world. Laura strolled in looking
uncommonly businesslike in a tailored gray pinstripe suit.
"Well, Miss Holt. I think we wrapped things up rather nicely.
Deerfield and Sonya Sommers are in jail facing attempted murder
and conspiracy charges and several politicians and real estate
developers are expected to be indicted. The resort is back in
business and so are we. Now that we've left the naked city behind,
what's next, eh?"
Laura smiled down at him. "I've had to keep Mildred at bay
all morning. She's been dying to know what we've been doing for
the past two days. Speaking of which, I couldn't sleep last night
so I spent a lot of time thinking." She paused and took
a deep breath. "I'm still not sure where our relationship
is going and I know it won't always be easy
for us. But now that we've finally turned that corner and become
lovers I'm not sure things can go back like they were before.
What I'm really trying to say is, I don't want to go back."
Steele searched her face, still feeling somewhat uncertain. "Are
you sure, Laura? I don't know if I can give you the sort of guarantees
you need. I've learned that life never quite works out according
to plan. But I'm not planning on going anywhere, Laura. I have
everything I want right here." He grasped her waist and
pulled her down into his lap.
Laura slowly drew her fingers across his cheek. "I'm sorry
I walked out like that. What happened in the steam room was kind
of a shock. I was really more angry with myself. I practically
attacked you in there, you know."
"I didn't struggle."
"No. Well you did thrash around a bit."
They both smiled, remembering.
"It was a trifle steamy wasn't it? You know, Laura, if you
ever feel the urge to attack me again I promise I won't resist.
I'm all yours, love."
"I'll remember that, Mr. Steele."
She snaked her arms around his neck and drew his lips to hers.
Their kiss was long and deep, and soon their hands began to stray
into once forbidden territory.
Their progress was interrupted by a knock on the door.
"It's probably Mildred," Laura sighed. "You'd
better answer the door."
"You said she wanted to know what we'd been doing the past
"True, Mr. Steele, but I thought I'd break it to her gently."
Laura reluctantly disentangled herself from his grasp and opened
"Miss Holt." Mildred waved a copy of the LA Tribune
in the air. "Your case made front page news."
Laura snatched the newspaper from Mildred's grasp. She stared
at a slightly grainy photograph of a naked twosome standing next
to a police motorcycle. Heavy black bars labeled "censored"
covered strategic body
parts. It was topped with the headline "NAKED DETECTIVES
"Thank God my mother went on that cruise to the Bahamas.
Maybe this will all blow over before she gets back. I hope our
reputations will survive the strain."
"I take it you don't want to see this photo-op hanging on
the office wall, Miss Holt."
Laura tossed the newspaper into the trash with a resounding thud.
"As far as I'm concerned Mr. Steele, no nudes is good news."