"Inspired idea, Laura, hiding
in the basement." said Steele.
"You had no better idea at the time." she reminded him.
"No, it's an excellent idea, couldn't be bettered! It's just a shame about
the whole demolition thing. It's hard to follow the suspect when most of his
house is on top of you."
"If you don't have a useful suggestion, I suggest you keep quiet." said
"Hey, did you ever make a den?" he asked, picking up a piece of siding.
"We're trapped in a condemned basement. This isn't the time to compare
He nodded and sat down on the concrete floor. "We've got food. All these
jars and cans."
"They look a little old."
"No wine." he said, disappointed.
"Any ideas on getting out at all?"
He looked around and shrugged. We'll have to wait for Mildred to realise
we're not back. At least they've stopped the demolition work."
Laura ran a hand through her hair, which was now thick with dust and grit.
"I hate this!" she said.
"I've been in worse places." he said, "There's an old rug over here. You can
have it, if you like."
"Mildred will be home by now. She won't know we're missing until the
"We'll find something to pass the time." he said, spreading out the rug.
She sat beside him. "You're covered in plaster and dust."
"You too." he said.
"Even if we yell for help, no-one's going to hear."
"On the other hand, no-one's going to shoot at us."
There was some daylight still coming in from a small hole above, but it was
fading. "It'll be dark soon." said Laura.
Steele seemed amused. "Don't be so nervous. It's not even a full moon. The
chances of my becoming a ravening beast are infinitesimally small." He took out
a lighter, and a small flame danced. "It isn't much, but could be useful."
"Unless there were gas leaks." said Laura.
"Could be a fast way of getting out." said Steele, "The gas must be off. I'm
sure they know their jobs."
"I wish we knew ours."
"Ah." he said.
"I thought you were annoyed with me, but it's the situation, not the
company. You wanted to chase Landers and Bligh and instead you're stuck here. That
makes me feel better."
"I'm glad you feel better." she said, folding her arms. She looked at the
sleeves of her jacket. "This is new! Look at it!" She tugged at her hair,
removing a bit of plaster. "Look at me!" she said.
Steele reached over and took another piece of plaster from her hair. "No-one
but you could carry off that look so well."
"You're very calm." she accused.
"I'm an opportunist. I've had to be. As circumstances shift around me, I
leap for the best vantage point. When chance or fate or sheer bad luck traps me
in a basement with a beautiful woman, sitting on the floor whining about the
unfairness of it all is wasting precious time."
"Precious time when you could be doing what?"
He smiled slowly and moved in as if to kiss her, then stood. He went to the
other side of the room and brought back a couple of cushions. "Making things
more pleasant." he said, handing her a cushion.
"Quite a little nest-builder, aren't you?"
"Just trying to make us comfortable." he said.
"The two can go together."
He sat down again beside her, "Does a soaring creature like you need a nest?"
"We all have to rest our wings sometime."
He nodded. For a while, they were silent. The light from outside dimmed
more. Eventually, he said, "What are you thinking about?"
"A warm bath." she said.
"I can almost feel the water."
"I'm working more with my visual imagination." he admitted.
"Lots of bubbles."
"Well, not too many."
She turned to frown at him. "Would you please fantasise about your own
He laughed quietly. She softened enough to smile. He put his arm around her
shoulder. "You know, you and I could be great together."
"I thought we were." said Laura.
"Here we are, alone together in this ..."
"Basement." said Laura.
"In this ..."
"Condemned, dirty, grimy basement."
"Its imperfections are less glaringly obvious in the dark."
"Are you hoping the same is true of yours?" she asked.
He grinned and shook his head. "You're good, Laura! I've never had to work
"Are you sure I'm worth the effort?" she said, wriggling closer.
"Quite sure, which is why I'm not going to give up."
"Pleased to hear it."
"It must be getting quite late."
"Hm. I should be getting into a nice soft bed."
She chuckled. "I have a theory. I suspect if I ever say yes, you'll run as
fast as you can."
"I can think of one easy way to test your theory."
"I didn't say I had any confidence in the theory."
"Coward!" he said, kissing her cheek.
She kissed him back on the lips and then whispered, "Tell me something."
"You're beautiful." he said, kissing her.
"Something about you." she said.
"I think you're beautiful." he whispered.
"I'm flattered, but you know that isn't what I meant."
"It's dark. There's no-one else around. We can be whoever we want to be and
you want to know about me?"
"I prefer intimacy to anonymity." she said, I'm not looking for a no-strings
fling with plausible denial. I'm not asking for any earth-shattering
secrets, just one thing, one thing I can know is real."
"It's important to you, isn't it?" he said.
"More than I'd ever realised."
"It's hard, to say something to you about who I am."
"I know, but it's dark down here and no-one else will ever hear."
"Ask me a question. Don't make me choose something. Not my name, though. I'm
Steele or Harry or whatever you like, but let's not talk names."
"Let's go for the abstract, as facts bother you. What do you want?"
"Haven't I made it obvious?"
"I mean in life."
He was silent. She wondered if he would just ignore the question. He
shuffled on the floor and seemed ill at ease. He said, "You really want to know?"
"Yes, I think I do."
"I'd like to belong somewhere, properly belong. I'd like some place, some
life, that I don't have to hustle for. I'm being far too honest here, Laura."
"Does it scare you?"
"Not nearly enough."
"The dark changes things."
said Laura, "When you're alone in the dark,
you're really alone."
"Safe and hidden." said Steele, "With no-one watching to see if you make a
"And two people in the dark, are ... I don't know."
"Closer?" he suggested quietly.
"Without distractions, without all the protection we need when the daylight
is drawing attention to all the things we'd rather forget, sometimes we can
just relax. Look at you and me! We do our best work in the dark."
"If you're alluding to our unofficial museum visits ..."
"We're good." he said.
"We are." she admitted.
"We're the perfect team. If you ever had an urge to tread the seamier side
of the street, we could be rich."
"I think I prefer my side of the street." she said.
"Well, as long as you let me play on your street corner, I'm happy." He
coughed. "This dust makes the throat dry. Let's open a can of peaches. At least
we could drink the syrup."
"Open it with what?"
"Laura, if I can get into a vault, I think I can open a tin can."
"Sorry." she said.
"I should think so. Wait here."
"Where else would I go?" she asked.
He used the lighter to find a little stack of cans, then tried using some of
the old and rusted tools lying around on one. It was a couple of minute
before he said, "Laura."
"I can't get it open."
She shuffled over to join him. "Have you tried the wire cutters?"
"Give me that chisel."
"Let me do it."
"I've let you try. Now I'm going to show you how it's done."
"Bragging before the deed is done courts humiliation." he said.
She kissed him. "I don't make empty boasts."
She put the chisel near the top of the can and hit it sharply with a hammer.
The chisel slipped, scraping a wide scratch in the can.
"Is it open?" he asked.
"Nearly. I need to whack it again."
"Summon up all that aggression from everything I do that annoys you."
"I don't think I'll need that much." she said.
"Secretly, you rather like me." he said.
"I like you a lot." she said, "And it's no secret."
"Though your life would be less complicated if you hadn't met me."
"I'm a detective. I like complicated." She lined up the chisel again and hit
it. A small split appeared in the can. "I did it!"
"Here, drink some."
"Afraid they've gone off?" she asked.
"No, but you did all the work. You always do all the work. Sometimes you
must hate me."
She widened the split with the chisel. "You'd be a hard man to hate. Here,
take a sip."
He took the can and sucked out some of the syrup. "That's good! Soothes the
throat." He gave the can to her and said, "Laura, be honest. Do you like being
"Usually, yes. You may not be the most responsible of people, but you're fun
and you're sweet and I think you respect me."
"You only think?"
"Well, I'm fairly sure."
"I respect, admire and revere you." he said.
"Only because I give you syrup to drink. I also like who I am when I'm with
you. When Wilson and I were together, I didn't like who I was, which is
probably why I couldn't make it work."
"Who are you with me?" he asked.
"Laura Holt, with all her faults and flaws."
"The faults that sent Wilson scurrying for cover."
"You just had more life in you than he could handle. That's not a fault."
"But you can handle it. He used to give me a look of disapproval and
annoyance. I constantly embarrassed him. I like being with someone who is wilder
than I am, someone who isn't always trying to keep me in line."
"I'm usually trying to lead you astray." said Steele.
"I can live with that. You'll never be able to lead me anywhere I don't want
"True." he said.
She laughed. "This is the kind of thing mothers warn their daughters about."
"Study hard, or you'll end up in a basement with a nameless hustler, eating
peaches from the can."
"You did study hard." said Steele.
"Yes, I did. And you have no shortage of names."
"And I'm a former hustler, really. We haven't made it to actual peaches yet.
And this isn't an end."
"So long as Mildred arrives before they start demolition again." said Laura.
"If it comes to it, I'll shield you with my body. Let's rehearse!"
She chuckled as he began to kiss her neck. "Mr Steele, I think the peach
syrup is going to your head."
"Still playing hard to get."
"Do you resent me for it?" she asked.
"No, I understand. You don't want to be just a notch on the bedpost of a man
whose name you don't know. Which of course means that you wouldn't consider
me just a notch on your bedpost. If we ... well, if things go that way, it
will mean something."
"And if they don't? Suppose we never get that far? If this is all there is
"Laura, are you suggesting Remington Steele could fail?" Before she could
answer, he gave her lips something else to do. As the kiss ended, he added,
"Besides, this is pretty damned good."
"It is." she agreed.
"And I like being with you, too."
"Even after all the others?"
"Others?" he said, "Was there ever another Laura Holt?"
"Are you going to claim I'm unique?"
"No, you're just like every other talented investigator I've sucked syrup
from a can with. How many women do you suppose there are who would put so much
trust in a man they knew was a fraud?"
"I bet there have been more than a few. Some women care more about blue eyes
than about truth."
"And some women, though sadly very few, know that the fact that a man lies
and even lives by lying, doesn't mean that nothing he says or does or feels is
There was a creak above. Laura looked up, but couldn't see if anything had
moved. "How strong do you think that ceiling is?"
"If you thought death might be imminent, would you want to do all those
things you'd been putting off, assuming there would be plenty of time?"
"No, I'd want to make some kind of a shelter." she said.
"Well, in that case, I won't try telling you the roof's likely to fall in. I
think, if it were going to, it would have by now. That sound was probably
just something cooling down."
"Are you going to suggest we should huddle for warmth?" she asked.
"I'm sure I'll try that one eventually, if all else fails. Doesn't quite
work as well in California as it can elsewhere."
"You've spent a lifetime elsewhere, haven't you?"
"Elsewhere, or on my way there."
"So where is home?"
He drew a sharp breath and moved away. There was an uncomfortable silence,
then he said, "Home isn't a place. It's Daniel, talking about old campaigns
late into the night while we empty a bottle that would have bankrupted us had we
decided to pay for it. It's being in a dark, silent building, knowing I can
get past the alarms. It's being with you, seeing the look in your eyes when I
impress you." He used the lighter again, but was careful not to let it
illuminate his face. "Dangerous stuff, this darkness."
"I like it." said Laura.
"Well, it is your accomplice. A few more nights like this, and I'll have
told you everything."
"I wish I thought so." she said.
"Just never use any of this against me." He put the lighter away and moved
closer again, "Is there a reward for so much honesty?"
She pulled him into her arms and kissed him. They went on kissing until
Laura suddenly sat up and said, "What time is it?"
He pulled her down again, "What does that matter?"
"I just want to know."
"It's getting to you, isn't it?" he said, sounding amused.
"Circumstances beyond your control. You don't like not being in control."
"You mean being trapped here?"
His silence was eloquent. After a while, he said, "What else could I mean?"
"I'm fine about being here. There's nothing we can do, so it would be stupid
to let it get to me."
"Quite right. Best to just enjoy it."
"I don't need to be in control, I just ..."
"Hate not to be." he said.
"At least I don't need to have my escape planned in advance, or to carry on
three different levels of deception to avoid ever being vulnerable."
"And I don't need to provoke an argument in order to avoid any kind of ..."
"I didn't start this!" she said.
"And, for your information, I've been vulnerable from the day we met. I gave
up anonymity for you."
"Not noticeably." she said.
"And when we argue, do I get on the first flight? Do I go off and return to
my old ways, my old life? No! I try to make things right. I try to make peace.
I seek your forgiveness, and you can't get more vulnerable than that. But I
suppose that doesn't count. It's not enough that I've given up running and
started to really try." He stood and began to pace. "No, that's not enough for
you. What will be, I wonder?" There was a thud and a scraping sound and his
"What happened?" she said.
"Walked into one of those tables." he said.
She tried not to laugh, but it proved impossible.
He heard her and came over to her. "Are you laughing at me?" he said.
"No!" she lied, through her laughter.
"You are! You're laughing at me!" He reached down and pulled her to her
feet, holding her close. "We've laughed a lot, haven't we?"
She was surprised by the change in his tone. She stopped laughing, "We have."
"Laughed a lot, danced a lot, kissed quite a bit."
"Broken some laws."
"Well, bent them, anyway. Saved each other's lives."
"And endangered them."
"That too." he agreed.
"And we do a good job of scaring each other."
"Because neither of us wants to be the one who's risking rejection." he said.
"And commitment is the most terrifying word there is." she said.
"I'd hate to start another argument, but you're wrong."
"Commitment is frightening, but there's a worse one."
"Do you mean that?" she asked.
"Do you want me to mean it?"
"Do you want me to want that?"
He laughed, "And sometimes we don't need music to dance. Nice footwork, Miss
"I have a good partner." she said.
"If you were at home now, would
you be thinking of me?" he asked.
"No. I'd be asleep."
"And you never dream of me?"
"Never. I make a point of never dreaming of you." she said.
"Well, I never dream of you either. Well, except when I do."
"What kind of dreams?" she asked.
"Happy ones, mostly." he said.
"Good." she said uncertainly.
"Do you like pine forests, Laura?"
"That's a sudden change of subject."
"I haven't changed the subject." he said, "I just wanted to know the odds of
my dreams coming true."
"A pine forest?"
"Or there's always the ..."
"Enough, Mr Steele!" she said.
"A man can't help his dreams, Laura. Apparently you have control of yours."
"Well, except when I don't." she said.
"And at those times, is there a faint smell of pine in the air?"
"Stop it. It's not fair."
"All's fair in ..."
"Which is it, love or war?"
"Ah. I appear to have painted myself into a corner, don't I?"
"All that fresh, pine-scented air must be getting to me."
"Or the dust has infiltrated your brain."
"Or I shouldn't be standing quite so close to someone quite so attractive."
"Then step back."
He kissed her and she returned the kiss eagerly. Another loud creak sounded
above. They broke off the kiss to look up. "Ignore it." said Steele.
"What if the roof falls in?"
"If we concentrate on this, we won't notice."
"We'll both be crushed."
"Not as crushed as I'll be if you stop kissing me."
"I didn't kiss you, you kissed me." she said.
"You kissed back. Or were you just being polite?"
"What time is it?" she said.
"It's time we kissed again. Seize the moment! Nobody is shooting at us."
"I know. Somehow it doesn't feel right."
He started to laugh. "Laura, I have never met a woman like you!"
"How long do you think it will be before Mildred comes?"
"Mildred who?" he said, trying to kiss her again, but missing as she moved
"I hope she doesn't just assume we've gone out before she arrived."
"I'm never around that early."
"Laura, what's the point of having someone to impress the punters if he
arrives before there's anyone to witness his entrance? It's the agency I'm
thinking of when I stay in bed until ten."
"How selfless of you!" she said with heavy sarcasm.
"Well, I do what I can."
"So Mildred won't be surprised that you're not in."
"True, but she'll know something's wrong when she doesn't find you sitting
at your desk with your nose buried in files."
"Maybe she'll think I've decided to emulate you."
"Maybe she'll think we went off together after finishing our surveillance."
"That would be a serious problem, wouldn't it?"
"They'll come and finish demolishing everything as Mildred flutters around
with a secret little smile thinking that you and I are snuggled up in some
"Which is almost the truth." he said, "If you'd get into the spirit of the
thing, this would be a fine lovenest."
She spoke slowly and clearly. "Mr Steele, we are going to be demolished."
"Impossible! I am Remington Steele."
"Well, leaving that aside, I won't let anyone crush you but me."
"I thought so. If Mildred doesn't turn up, we'll get that jacket of yours on
the end of something long and stick it up through that hole as a flag."
"Why my jacket?"
"It's bright, it's small enough to go through the hole and the demolition
men are more likely to rush to rescue you than me. Now, can we get back to the
"Is that why you didn't come up with your clever flag idea during daylight?"
"Laura, do you think I wanted us trapped down here? If I were going to
arrange something like that, do credit me with a bit of finesse. I'd organise
something far more romantic, far more appropriate. This place is somewhat lacking
in ambience and slightly over-supplied with dust and grit. The only reason I
didn't think of the jacket when the demolition team were here was that
somebody had just knocked down a house on top of us and little things like that do
tend to throw my concentration out of whack."
"I'm sorry. You can't blame me for wondering."
He sighed. He went over to one of the tables.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"I'm going to build you that shelter you wanted, just in case. If I move the
tables over our little rug, then put the siding over them, we'll have at
least some protection. Then, I hope, we can relax."
"You sound very irritated."
"It's the dust." said Steele, "It's making me itch."
"So you're not annoyed with me?"
"Perish the thought." he said, still sounding less than happy.
"Do you need a hand?" she said.
"No, but you could work your magic on that can again and try to get the
peaches out. I'm hungry, and I don't like to be hungry. It scares me. I like to
know where my next bowl of caviar is coming from."
She moved towards the can as he moved the first table. It hit her leg as he
tried to swing it round. She let out a cry of pain and surprise.
"Laura!" he said. He left the table and felt his way over to her. "Laura,
did I hurt you?" He lit the lighter and peered at her. "Laura?"
"I'm fine. You just hit my leg."
"I'm sorry. I feel terrible."
"Don't. It's fine. It surprised me, that's all."
"I should have been more careful."
"So should I."
"Do you want me to take a look at it?" he asked, sounding hopeful.
"No. It's fine."
"Good. Excellent. Sit on the rug. Then I'll know where you are."
He built the shelter around her,
using the lighter sparingly and mostly
working by feel. He was good at moving around in the dark, when not distracted.
When it was done, he handed her the can of peaches, hammer and chisel and she
began to attack the can again. Steele sat down beside her. "How's the leg?"
"Fine." she said.
"Is the dust still getting to you?"
"Less than it was." he said.
"Hm." he said.
She prised open the can and held it out to him. "Peaches, Mr Steele."
"What a treasure you are, Miss Holt." he said, taking one.
"Nice shelter." she said.
"Well, treasure must be protected."
They ate the peaches quietly. Then Laura said, "I lost track. Are we
"Arguing? Us? No, everything's peachy." He touched her cheek and she moved
back. "Something wrong, Laura?"
"You have sticky fingers." she said.
"Yes, but there's nothing down here to steal, so let's forget my failings."
"I mean literally." she said.
"Oh. Well, I'd wash them, but there's no water down here. I'd lick them, but
there's only so much dust a man can ingest."
He slipped his arm around her shoulder. "We're both in a terrible mess. Just
remember, when we get out, we'll soon be looking presentable again. This
isn't real. It's a mere pause on the way to somewhere else."
"It feels real." she said softly. She yawned.
"Get some sleep." he said.
"I don't want to. What if we oversleep?"
"On this floor? The pain from our tortured backs will wake us."
"Or the pain of being crushed in a heap of rubble."
"Laura, I'm a light sleeper. Now, cuddle up and let's try to get a bit of
"It makes no sense." she said.
"What makes no sense?"
"Trying so hard to keep you at arm's length, then feeling so safe in your
arms. I should be most afraid when we're closest."
"Afraid of what?" he asked.
She kissed him. "There are questions we don't ask, conversations we don't
have, words we avoid."
"All with good reason."
"Yes, all with good reason." she agreed, "Now would not be a good time to
talk about things that would trouble us both."
"I concur." he said, kissing her.
"Life is complicated enough."
"And we both know pretty well where we stand."
"Or lie." said Steele.
"Actions speak louder than words anyway."
"Yes. We don't need words." he said.
"Even if the words would be nice."
"But once spoken, words have a life of their own."
"Yes." she said.
She rested her head on his chest and he stroked her hair and kissed her face
until she fell asleep. The sound of him saying, "Sometimes, even before
they're spoken." became just a part of a confusing dream.
They woke as daylight flooded in. They looked at each other, dirty, sticky
and looking tired. Steele smiled, "We're still alive. Hand me your jacket."
She gave it to him. He attached it to a broom handle and stuck it up through
the hole. Then he came back to kiss her. "A thousand thanks for a wonderful
"You have a twisted idea of wonderful." she said.
"Anything can be enjoyable, when you're with the right person. Back aches a
She moved behind him and began to massage his back. It soon had an effect.
"Better?" she asked.
"Much. You have a very good touch." He turned around, "I don't want to be
rescued." he said, looking into her eyes.
"Remington Steele can't die dusty." she said.
"Of course. Still, he'd get points for dying in the arms of a woman like
"Women like me don't sit around waiting to die." she said, going over to
wave their flag.
Her arms were getting tired when they heard voices. A very familiar one was
saying, "I know they were here. I'm worried." Another, quieter voice replied
"Mildred!" shouted Laura, waving the broom handle as much as she could.
"Mildred!" yelled Steele, "We're down here."
"How did you get in there, Chief?" asked Mildred as she got to the hole.
"Through the house which they then demolished. You'll need to find someone
to dig us out."
"Right." she said, "Are you okay?"
"From the moment we heard your voice." said Steele.
Mildred went off to find help and Steele smiled at Laura. "Ready to go, Miss
"I think so." she said.
"I'd just like to say, you're very good in the dark."