Three Days
Date: Tuesday, November 27, 2007
From: <neneithel @>
This was originally posted at so those who are members
there will have seen it before. It was written for the "Overheard in error"
Three Days

It was always good to talk to Murphy and Laura listened happily to news of a
few cases that had come his way. "You're doing well." she said.
"I get by." he replied, "How about you? Did you ever get paid by that Garner
"No, not yet. He still keeps expecting us to do more work on his case. He
went on for ages last time about how this fraud was two and a half years of
lies and deceit and he wanted evidence."
"You can't keep giving him more time."
"I'm not. I won't put up with it anymore. I've decided, Murph, he has three
days. After that, he can take his 'two and a half years of lies and deceit'
and ... well, they'll be someone else's problem, not mine, and I wish the best
of luck to whatever idiot takes him on."
"Good for you!" said Murphy.
"No more excuses. Nothing is worth this much trouble."
Steele leant over Mildred's desk. "Why don't you go home, Mildred? Put your
feet up." he suggested brightly.
She beamed at him. "Miss Holt's still here, Boss."
"I was hoping she would be. Maybe I'll see if she'd like to go somewhere
He went to the door of her office and heard, "I won't put up with it
anymore. I've decided, Murph, he has three days. After that, he can take his 'two
and a half years of lies and deceit' and ... well, they'll be someone else's
problem, not mine, and I wish the best of luck to whatever idiot takes him on."
He stepped back, stunned at what he'd just heard. Mildred was putting on her
coat. "I'll see you tomorrow." she said.
"Yes." he said, moving nearer to the door.
"No more excuses. Nothing is worth this much trouble." said Laura inside.
He went to the door of his own office. "Three days? I get three bloody days!
After three years! Although apparently only two and a half were memorable
enough to register. What does she expect me to do in three days?"
"Boss?" said Mildred, looking concerned.
He looked around and said, "Sorry, Mildred, preoccupied. You hurry off
"Aren't you gonna ask Miss Holt?"
"No, because Miss Holt will say no. Besides, if I only have three days, I'm
going to need more than dinner and a movie."
"Three days, Mr Steele?"
"Apparently, that's all I'm worth."
"You want me to talk to her?"
"No. Go home, enjoy your evening. No point in both of us trying to reason
with the unreasonable."
When she had gone, he went into his office, slammed the door behind him and
called the only person he could think of who might have useful advice.
Laura heard the door slam and went to see what was wrong. She was about to
knock when she heard him say, "That's right, Daniel, three days then 'Goodbye,
Remington Steele!' Time for one last, supreme effort."
She went back to her desk and scowled. "The rat! The louse! I can't believe
he'd leave now! In three days?" It was obvious to her what the supreme effort
would be, one last attempt to get her into bed, just before he flew off to
Europe. "Three days?" she said, sitting on her desk.
She heard his door open and close and she went out to meet him. "Going
home?" she said.
"Yes." he said.
"Goodnight, then."
He frowned at her, as if saying goodnight were a breach of etiquette.
"Goodnight." he said.
"Is something wrong?" she asked, "Is there something you want to say?"
"At this precise moment, nothing comes to mind. Was there anything you
wanted to mention?"
"Not that I can think of." she said.
"Good. That seems to be all, then." He left.
Muttering, "Cold-blooded rat!" Laura went to get her coat.
The next morning, Laura was just going into her office when Steele came out
of his. "Good morning!" he said.
"You're early." she said.
"I take my responsibilities here seriously." he said.
"For how long?"
He frowned and said, with some inexplicable bitterness, "Oh, about three
"Until something more interesting comes up." she said.
"Ha!" he said.
"What does that mean?"
"It means precisely nothing." he said, "Like everything else I say and do."
"What's wrong with you?" she said.
"I'm sure, if you find time to consider it, you'll come up with a long
list." he said. He went into his office.
Laura went into hers and wondered if she should have just asked directly why
he was leaving.
"Impossible woman!" said Steele, "Doesn't even tell me I've only got three
days." He sat behind the desk. What could he do in three days? He wasn't even
sure what she wanted. A commitment, probably.
"Why should I allow myself to be backed into a corner like that?" he said,
"Why should I have to make a commitment I'm not ready for just to please a
woman who won't even be honest with me about where I stand?" That little flame
of defiance flickered and died as he thought of losing everything in a few
If she wanted promises, he could give her a dozen and mean none. There had
been times when the words had come so lightly from his lips and beautiful
women had believed or disbelieved as they saw fit. He'd made the mistake with
Laura of assuming she'd prefer the truth. He didn't want to lie to her, he
realised. That worried him. At a time like this, he desperately needed to be the
one who could say anything he had to say and be believed. If he wanted to
keep Laura, he would have to convince her he was ready, willing and able to make
a real commitment. How to wriggle out of it was a worry for later. Every
time he thought about it, though, he felt a strong reluctance to say anything he
didn't mean. He was unarmed in this fight, because the one weapon he had, he
was choosing not to use.
"Now is no time to develop a conscience." he said to himself.

Laura was going over the events of the past few weeks in her mind, trying to
work out if she had done something that might have made him decide to leave.
If the problem could be narrowed down to either her fault or some hangover
from his past (and Daniel was clearly a prime suspect there) she would at
least know how to try to keep hold of him.
"Maybe I should just let him go." she said into her coffee cup, "If he
doesn't want to be here, what's the point?" She thought of him going back to his
old life, probably to Felicia. He'd soon forget boring Laura. As for her,
she'd survive. She always got left, she always survived.
Then she got angry. She'd worked hard. She'd accepted the gaping gaps in his
past, the slow release of information that never quite satisfied her
curiosity or her fears. She'd supported him when anyone else would have just shown
him the door. She'd invested three years of her life in him and now he planned
to just walk out of it without a backward glance.
"Not this time, buster!" she said.
She heard his voice at the door. It sounded oddly strangled. "Laura, I just
want to say ... I don't really know what I want to say, but please listen
anyway. You and I make a great team. I mean, leaving aside all the confusion and
the somewhat nebulous nature of our personal relationship, we're good
together. Your brilliance, my moments of inspiration, your tenacity, my talents.
We've dealt with some demanding cases, over the years. Three years, by the way."
She didn't answer. If he thought he was going to flatter her into his bed
anytime in the next three days, he was wrong.
He went on, "Laura, I know I've sometimes been ..." He fell silent. He was
quiet for so long she almost thought he'd gone, then he went on, "Well, I've
probably been everything you ever accused me of being." His voice became
quieter, almost plaintive. "I could make excuses, some of them good ones, but an
apology is probably more important right now. I'm sorry, Laura, truly sorry."
He was quiet again.
Laura glared at the door. Did he really think she'd fall for that? She
reluctantly admitted to herself that she might have, had she not known he planned
to leave.
"Laura?" he said.
The door opened a crack. She tried to make her face neutral, but there was
no need. He closed it again quickly and went away.
Steele knew he should have gone through the door. He could be very
persuasive, face to face and she might have found it hard not to tell him about the
three days when she was looking into his eyes. If it could be brought out into
the open, he could find out what it was she wanted.
He was angry with himself for not having the courage to face her. As he
opened the door, he had imagined how she would look at him, with eyes that told
him there was no time left and that she didn't want him around anymore.
It didn't help that his mind kept replaying the words "two and a half years
of lies". Leaving aside the fact that she'd forgotten half a year, that
seemed to mean she believed he'd lied about everything. All those times when he
had taken a chance and told her the truth, she hadn't believed him, or had, but
didn't now.
Mildred came over and offered him a cup of coffee. "You look terrible."
"It seems I am." he said, "It's not fair, though, is it, giving me three
days and then hiding from me?"
"Three days? To do what?"
"Well, that's the question, isn't it? What does she want?"
"It can't be that bad, can it? You were fine until last night."
"I thought so, but it sounds as if I've been letting her down for a very
long time."
"Maybe if you just talked honestly to each other ..."
He shook his head. "Miss Holt thinks I'm incapable of honesty. She thinks
I've been lying to her for two and a half years. That's a difficult idea to
overthrow in three days."
"But you and she ..." Mildred began, getting upset.
He put his arm around her. "Mildred, don't let this distress you. This was
never going to work. We're too different."
"Or too alike." she said.
He frowned, puzzled. "What do you mean?"
"Well, if she's hiding, so are you. Go in there! Use those blue eyes of
"It's no good." he said.
"You've never been a coward before." she said.
He smiled sadly. "All my life, Mildred. Every day of it."
"And she's not worth the effort?"
"Neither honesty nor courage will help me now." he said. A thought occurred
and he brightened up. "On the other hand, the kind of underhanded cheating
I'm best at could give me a chance."
"I really don't think you're going to convince her she can trust you by
doing something dishonest." said Mildred.
"I've played by her rules for three years. Look where it got me. Find me a
client who might conceivably want to see both of us together. She can't escape
from me in a moving car."
"Are you sure this is wise?" asked Mildred.
"The wisest thing would be to forget I ever met her." he said.
Steele knocked on Laura's door. "Laura, Mr Harlow wants to see us."
"What about?"
"About the case, I assume. Are you coming, or should I make some excuse for
She opened the door. He looked as if he were in pain. She hoped it was a
sign of regret that he was leaving her. "Something wrong?" she asked.
He sighed and shook his head. "Everything's wonderful, Laura. Why wouldn't
it be?"
"Good. Let's go." she said.
They reached the car and got in. As Fred started to drive, Steele turned to
her and said, "Laura, I have been honest with you."
"Really?" she said. She felt her anger rising. He dared to say that when he
probably already had an airline ticket in his pocket?
"More than with anyone else. I've always tried to be."
"Why? Did that seem like the best way to get me into the sack?"
"Laura, there's more to us than that!"
"Are you going to start making long-term promises?"
"You wouldn't believe me if I did. Is that what you want? A ring on your
finger? Or just one through my nose?"
"You don't care what I want."
"This isn't fair!" he said, "I know in your mind, it seems fair, but it
isn't. I deserve more than this kangaroo court! Nobody has ever had three years
of my life, but there are people who, for a month of it, would give me more
than you have."
"Then go to them!" she said, "I certainly have no claim on you."
He looked out and said, "Go right, up ahead, Fred."
"We're going to see Mr Harlow." she said.
"No, that was a lie. I thought we should talk."
"Stop the car, Fred." she said.
"Keep going." said Steele, "Right turn."
"Stop." said Laura.
"Could you toss a coin or something?" said Fred.
"Just stop!" said Laura.
Fred shrugged and pulled over. "Sorry, Mr Steele, she's the boss."
Laura turned to Steele. "You thought we should talk? Why didn't you think
that before?"
"Because I didn't think before."
"And what do you want to talk about?"
"Us. Isn't that what I'm supposed to do?"
"So you're going to remind me of all the happy times we've had together and
of the great team we make and then you're going to assure me you respect me
as a detective and then you're going to hope that I fall into your arms
without hesitation?"
"No. Right now, that would only make things worse."
"At least we can agree on that."
"What's gone wrong between us, Laura?" he said. He looked desolate.
She fought an urge to kiss him. She concentrated on her anger. He was trying
to manipulate her. Two days from now he'd be sitting with Daniel, bragging
of his conquest. "Everything." she said, "And it's my fault. I was too quick
to believe the things you said. You can't help what you are."
"What am I?" he said.
"You're you." she replied.
"And that's unforgivable?
"I forgive you for everything. I was wrong to expect you to change."
"I have changed." he said.
"Fred, take us back." she said.
"You can't spare me time to discuss this?" asked Steele.
"Is there anything to discuss?" she asked. He looked down and sighed.
The first day was over and Steele felt like the whole thing was over. She
wasn't giving him a chance. Usually distressingly eloquent on whatever he had
done to offend her, she was now keeping very quiet. She still hadn't mentioned
to him that his future hung in the balance. He sat in his apartment and
wondered what he could do to change a mind that seemed already made up.
Every strategy that came to him had too much chance to backfire. After her
hostility in the car, he had no faith in his ability to prevent another
catastrophic argument. He went over to the phone. Maybe he could call her. Maybe
hearing the sound of her voice would focus his mind enough to say the right
thing. There had to be a right thing to say. There had to be a way out of this
Of course, talking to her could also mean that he stopped thinking clearly
and said something stupid. The way he was feeling it could be anything from,
"Goodbye" to "I love you." Neither would help.
He picked up the phone anyway and dialled her number. She took a while to
answer. Finally he heard her voice. "Hello? Laura Holt."
He froze. Not only did he not have the right words, he was having trouble
remembering any words.
"Hello?" she said.
He tried, but no words came, just the certainty that if he spoke now,
whatever he said would be the last thing he would ever have the chance to say to
"Mr Steele?" she asked.
He put the phone down and grabbed his coat. He'd tried the mature,
intelligent approach. Now every instinct told him to run away from the problem.
Running away had always been easier. He went to a bar and pretended he was Richard
Laura had hoped he would call, but when the phone rang, she almost didn't
pick it up. He was unlikely to want to discuss his imminent departure. Maybe in
a fit of guilt he'd call her to say goodbye. Since she had no intention of
begging him to stay, it seemed stupid to talk to him.
The phone kept ringing, though. She wanted to hear his voice. She picked it
up and there was silence. When she said his name, he put the phone down.
"Coward!" she said. An hour later, she tried calling him, but he wasn't answering.
She went to bed but ended up lying awake, waiting for the phone to ring. In
the morning, she half expected him not to turn up, but he was in the office
before her. Mildred gestured to his door. "Miss Holt, I don't know what's
happened, but I hate seeing him like this."
"I don't think either of us will have to see him like this much longer."
said Laura.
"I hope not. He's a good guy, Miss Holt. He says the wrong thing sometimes,
but he really does care."
"Not for me, Mildred." said Laura.
"You wouldn't say that if you saw how he was yesterday."
"Well, Mr Steele can appear ..." she stopped as he came out of his office.
"Good morning." he said. He looked exhausted.
"Did you call me last night?" she asked.
"No." he said, but she knew he was lying.
Mildred seemed to as well. She threw up her hands and left the room.
"Is there something you wanted to say?" asked Laura, praying it wouldn't be
"Oh, I get a chance to guess the magic words, do I?" he said, "Nice of you
to make that small concession. Do I get a clue too?"
"Don't you think this is a bit unreasonable? You haven't said a civil word
to me in the past twenty-four hours."
"Or an honest one in the past three years?" he said.
"Have you been drinking?" she said.
"Drowning, Laura." he said. He didn't seem drunk, he seemed to be on the
brink of some personal abyss and, for some reason, seemed to blame her.
She took his arm and led him into her office. "You look tired."
"So do you." he said. He glanced at the door, as if calculating how fast he
could be through it.
"If there's something on your mind ..."
"Why should there be? I'm Remington Steele! For now, anyway."
"And I made you Remington Steele! You owe me an explanation."
"For what? For trying to fit your impossible template? For sometimes making
mistakes? Because you never make a mistake, do you?"
"Just one big one!" she said, getting angry.
"Then rectify it!" he said bitterly.
They looked at each other, both fuming. Laura could see she'd only made him
more determined to leave. Tears filled her eyes.
"Don't cry." he said, "That's unfair. Shout all you like, but don't cry."
She wiped her eyes. "You're not worth crying over."
"No, I'm not." he said.
"I wish we'd never met."
"So do I, with all my heart." he said. He turned and walked to the door,
turning back briefly to say, "Goodbye, Miss Holt."
"Goodbye, whoever you are." she said.
Steele found Mildred outside the door. "Good or bad?" she asked.
"Fatal." he said. He took her hand and kissed it. "You're one in a million,
dear, wonderful Mildred. Take care of her."
"You're going?" she said.
He nodded. "Tomorrow."
As soon as the confusing, irrational, unreasonable and infinitely
troublesome Mr Steele was out of her office, Laura started to think things through.
For a while, they had been a good team. In fact, had it not been for the
strong attraction between them and the way it shook them both and that something
that was growing between them and that was starting to feel a lot like love,
then the whole Remington Steele thing could have worked.
On the other hand, had it not been for the fact that the agency and all she
had worked for depended on this partnership, she could have allowed herself
to take a few more chances in the other side of their relationship and maybe
not every argument would be driven to the point of fury by undercurrents she
was afraid to acknowledge.
He'd been right, when he said that, "leaving aside all the confusion" they
had been a good team. In a moment of treacherous honesty, somewhere in a
corner of her mind, a thought suggested that maybe the fact that he was right was
one of the many things pouring fuel on her anger.
She was right to be angry that he was leaving, right too to be furious at
the way he had decided to do it, giving her no warning. She could probably
justify sulking angrily about it until the object of her anger was sitting on
some distant beach planning how to lay his hands on the next free lunch.
Anger, though, wouldn't bring him back. Neither would being in the right. He
was behaving unfairly, but he could afford to. All he would lose was Laura
Holt, and she probably didn't mean that much to him anyway. She was about to
lose the head of the agency, someone she had considered a very good friend and
the man she could potentially settle down with, assuming she could ever get
him to understand the concept. For all the attractions of a really good sulk,
it was best to leave such indulgences until she had tried and failed to keep
hold of him.
She left the office, hoping to find him still there. Mildred looked up
sadly. "He's going tomorrow. He's gone to book a flight."
For a moment she was angry that he'd told Mildred first, but then she
realised that it was actually the best sign so far. At least he showed some signs
of loyalty, even if it were to Mildred and not to her.
"Is he coming back?" she asked, "Did he say he'd be back here?"
"No." said Mildred, "What can we do?"
"Give him time to book a flight, then call the airport and cancel."
"Right." said Mildred, "What will you do?"
"Find out what it is he won't tell me and what it would take to make him
Steele stayed in his apartment long enough to book a flight to France for
the next day, then he got out. Everything in the apartment belonged to Steele,
and Steele was no longer part of his life. He didn't want to be there if
Laura might turn up. She hadn't told him yet that he had to leave and he didn't
want to have that conversation. He just started walking.
His feet, knowing what he needed more than his head did, led him to a dark
place where he could stare at a screen for a few hours. He let the movie fill
his mind with other thoughts and in the darkness he pretended he didn't
exist, at least as Remington Steele.
Eventually, he had to go back to the apartment. Laura wasn't there, although
she seemed to be there in everything. He went to the kitchen and was just
wondering whether he had the energy or the inclination to eat something when
the phone rang. He picked it up and was about to say, "Steele here." when he
realised he wasn't Steele. "Hello?" he said.
"Boss? Is that you?" He was relieved and disappointed to hear Mildred's
"It's me." he said, "What can I do for you?"
"Well, you could stay."
"Quite impossible. Believe me, this isn't my choice."
"We've been calling for hours." That "we" made all the difference. It
suggested Laura and Mildred were of one mind. Maybe Laura had decided to give him
another chance.
"Where's Laura?" he said.
"Out looking for you." said Mildred, "Oh, somebody decided to cancel your
flight. Want me to rebook?" She sounded challenging. He got the feeling she was
daring him to run away.
"No." he said.
"Good, because I wouldn't."
"Mutiny, Mildred?"
"If that plane leaves the ground and you're on it, you'll regret it. Maybe
not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life."
"Misquoting Casablanca is worse than mutiny, Mildred." said Steele.
"So fire me!" she said, "I'll still be right."
Laura finally had to stop looking and go home. As soon as she got in, she
called Mildred. "Anything?" she asked.
"He's at his place. I was just thinking of going there, make sure he doesn't
get away."
"No, leave that to me." said Laura.
"He says leaving isn't his choice. I think he thinks you want him to go."
"Because I yelled at him in the office?"
"I don't know."
Laura tried calling Steele next. There was no answer. "Please, be there!"
she said. Nothing. She put down the phone and turned, intending to hurry over
there. Instead, she found herself face to face with Steele.
"Is here any good?" he asked.
"Better than on a flight." she said.
"A few more days would have helped, or knowing the rules." said Steele.
"I've looked everywhere. I've broken my shoe." said Laura. She looked at
him, wondering what he was talking about. "What rules?"
"Well, exactly."
They looked at each other and Laura wanted to grab him by the throat and
shake him until he told her what was going on and she wanted to hug him until he
stopped looking at her with that look of desperate confusion. In the end,
she gave up and said, "Don't leave!"
At the same moment, he said, "Don't end this!"
They stared at each other. Then he said, "I heard you say I had three days
or I was out."
"I never said that. I never would say that." she said.
"I heard you say it." he said.
"You told Daniel you were giving up being Remington Steele."
"I didn't. I told him I wanted to make one last effort to stay."
"Nobody was asking you to go!" said Laura. She realised she was raising her
voice and struggled to control herself.
"You told Murphy I had three days."
She thought back to her chat with Murphy. "Oh."
"Are you claiming to have forgotten?" he asked.
"What made you think I meant you?"
"Years of lies and deceit? There was no-one else you could mean."
"You've put me through two days of Hell because you thought I was talking
about you?"
"Laura, try to imagine what it's been like for me."
"You didn't want to go?"
"I hated the idea. I hated the idea that you wanted me to go."
"I didn't. I was talking about Garner paying his bill."
"What about the two and a half years of deceit?"
She stroked his cheek. "Mr Steele, we've been together three years."
"You didn't believe me when I said I'd been honest with you."
"You said it after telling Daniel you were leaving."
"I was asking Daniel for advice on how to convince you to let me stay."
She patted his chest. Let's recap. You don't want to leave and head off to a
life of crime in Europe?"
"Not in the least."
"And I don't want you to go. In fact, the last couple of days have been
terrifying, because I couldn't think of anything to say to stop you. So, in fact,
we both agree that you belong here, as Remington Steele."
"Then why have we spent two days tearing each other to shreds?" said Steele.
"I don't know." she admitted.
"Sheer stupidity has to be in the running."
"Maybe we just can't be rational when something so important to us is
He smiled. "Oh, I like your explanation much better."
"So, you're staying, right? Because, if you still plan to leave, I'm going
to make Mildred stand guard over you."
"Sorry about the shoes." he said.
"Answer the question!" she said.
"I never wanted to leave." he said.
"Just say that you'll stay."
"Say that you want me to."
"You know I do."
"Good. The idea of begging didn't appeal, but I'd have done it if I had to."
"Me too."
"Really?" he said.
"You're a wreck, Mr Steele."
"It's been a tough few days."
"Go home and sleep. I'll tell Mildred all is well."
He kissed her cheek. "You're hostile when you're scared, aren't you?"
"That's right. So don't scare me like that again."
The End

Home FileCabinet E-Mail