Sun Sensitive Steele Part 6 (Final)
Date: Sun, 08 Oct 2000
Lauryn Poynor <>


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 we feel?"

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 that counts?"

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 surface,
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 Miss Holt?"

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 else."

"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
completely submerged.

"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, almost unreal.

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 evening?"

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.

"Mr. Steele?"

"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?"

Laura shrugged.

"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 each accident."

"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."
Laura accused.

"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 said doubtfully.

"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 suffice.

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 truck.

"Mr. Sommers, are you all right?" Laura asked with concern.

"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 them."

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 look.

"Laura, could you scrunch down a bit? You're creating a traffic jam."

"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 it."

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 it.

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 repeat performance."

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 injuries.

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 few days."

"True, Mr. Steele, but I thought I'd break it to her gently."

Laura reluctantly disentangled herself from his grasp and opened the door.

"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 NAB NUDISTS."

"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."