If it was a bright and sunny morning outside the building, it was certainly something rather different on the inside; for as Laura Holt stormed into the office, a dark and ominous cloud threatened storms and hurricanes by lunchtime. Bernice Fox, who had been in the act of laying on some coffee, paused in the midst of her cheery good morning, and instead melted herself away into the background. Sparks, she was sure, were about to fly.

"He in?" Laura's stride did not waver, nor did her fierce eyes look Bernice's way. The secretary flinched.

"Murphy or Steele?" There was no real need to clarify the point. There was only one person in the office - indeed quite possibly in the whole of Los Angeles - who qualified for that look, that tone of voice and that air of ill-concealed, frustrated, uncontrollable rage.

"You know who." Laura jerked to a stop, looked towards Bernice, looked towards the door of Steele's office, looked back at Bernice again, and then let her shoulders slump in the kind of exhaustion that could only have come from some considerable amount of time spent getting very tense. "Is he in?"

"I haven't tried looking." Bernice shrugged. "Some mornings I think that maybe, if I don't look in his office, he won't be there. Then nothing can go wrong."

"Oh yes it can." The rage was growing again behind her old friend's usually amiable features. "Believe me it can."

"What's he done?" Really she didn't want to ask, but she could see that if Laura didn't say something soon, she was going to explode - and if that explosion were directed at Remington Steele, the fireworks were likely to last until well into the next decade. Just lately it seemed as though every morning began this way, and whilst Bernice had not trained in diplomacy and mediation, she was beginning to think that a career in the UN might just be heading her way before long regardless. She certainly had the experience.

"Nineteen thousand dollars." She pronounced it like a mantra. "Nineteen thousand dollars. Nineteen thou--"

"Er, yeah. I heard you the first time." Bernice really didn't want to ask now, but she was on a slippery slope and there was just no avoiding it. "Did he run up a bill somewhere?"

"Did he--" Laura shook her head. "Never mind. I just want to talk to him. I just want to - I just want--" She grinned. "I want to grab him by the scruff of his neck and dangle him out of his window, that's what I want to do. I want to garrotte him with his own handmade, one-hundred-dollar silk tie. That's what I really want to do." She hit the door of her errant colleague's office with one fist, sending it flying open, and Bernice ducked aside to avoid the eruption. Sometimes discretion was definitely the better part of valour. She could hear Laura's footsteps on the thick, expensive carpet of the inner office, but in moments the door was closed, and the sounds were taken away. Such isolation was almost a relief.

It was dark in Steele's office, which was not entirely a surprise. He was quite given to sitting quietly, all the lights out and the blinds drawn, furrows of thought channelled deeply across his forehead. Laura could almost imagine those blue eyes half-closed, filled with plans or worries or dreams... and for a second she felt herself softening. She shut the image out immediately, and straightened her shoulders. Damn him. Even when he was unaware of her presence he seemed able to drive her up the wall.

"Steele?" He was sitting at his desk, she could see - his back was turned to her, but his shape and form was clear. His slight but athletic frame, with its ready-for-anything poise, was strangely tense in its chair, but he gave no reaction to her entrance. She walked further into the room, incensed that he was not even bothering to look at her. "Steele?"

"What?" The clipped voice, more English-sounding than usual, surprised her with its curtness. There was none of the usual warmth, none of the usual charm with which he would ordinarily have greeted her. She had, she realised, been almost expecting his offhand attempts to diffuse her anger; perhaps some light-hearted move to change the direction of her wrath. Such attempts invariably left her rather more infuriated than she had been to start with. It was almost a disappointment not to be met with such a response now; almost as though a part of the game had been denied her.

"I want to talk to you." She approached the desk, surprised to see him turning away slightly as she approached; spinning slightly in his chair to keep some kind of an obstacle between them. Worry lanced through her anger, although she was not quite sure why. Perhaps it was her sixth sense warning her that something was wrong, or perhaps she just cared more for him that she had thought - not that she would have considered admitting that to him.

"Not now Laura." He was still refusing to look at her; still keeping the seat back between the pair of them. Hurt lanced through her. What was wrong with him? She was worried that he might be ill, or possibly injured. Given his lifestyle, and the risks he so frequently took, it was not at all unlikely that something had happened. A jealous husband perhaps, or a violent creditor. Something else was wrong though. Where was the warm undertone that so unfailingly coloured his voice whenever he spoke her name? Where was the gentle hint of Irish, so often faint, and yet unmistakably strong within those familiar syllables? He was acting like a stranger, and she could feel her anger, temporarily put on hold, beginning to bubble up to the surface once again.

"Don't think that you can get around me like that." She reached out, grabbing hold of the chair to spin him around. He seemed to be resisting, and her anger burst forth. "Damn you Steele, this has gone far enough. I want to know why nineteen thousand dollars of agency money has gone missing, and I want to know what the hell has got into you this morning. Now if you don't want to speak to me, fine; but you can take your sulks and find a different office to stick them in, because I've had just about enough of you!"

"Have you?" His voice was so soft that she barely heard it; but she could tell that something was very wrong. It didn't sound right - didn't sound like Steele should have sounded. Her fingers tightened their grip on the back of the chair, and she spun it around. The figure seated before her, shrouded in shadow, raised his head. Cold blue eyes looked up at her, framed by neat and thick black hair. A handsome face, not strong exactly, but certainly not weak - a hard jaw with a mouth that could be cruel, could be soft... She blinked. The face that was staring back at her was similar to Steele's. It had certain of his features, displayed certain of his characteristics - but it was not the face of Remington Steele. She blanched.

"Who are you?" Fear tinged her voice for a second, then as the momentary panic passed, her stronger emotions kicked in. Anger and indignation flashed through her in equal measure. "What are you doing in this office?"

"This is my office." His voice was hard and determined. "I'm Remington Steele."

"I don't know who you are, pal, but you are most definitely not Mr Steele." She folded her arms, towering over him as he remained seated. "So tell me who you are."

"I told you." He stood up then, and now it was he who towered over her, his own folded arms adding to his build, and the implied strength of his body. He stared down at her, and the cruel mouth twisted in an unpleasant, insinuating smile. "I'm Remington Steele. And just so long as you play along, and don't do anything to deny that fact... then nobody's going to get hurt."

She shook her head. "I don't understand. Where's Mr Steele?"

"Here. That's all you need to know." His cold eyes glittered. "Bring the rest of the staff in. I think we need to pause for a little board meeting, don't you?"

"No. Not until I get some answers." She was sure that there was a gun in the filing cabinet over by the door. If she could reach it, maybe she could make some demands of her own. Perhaps he saw the direction of her momentary gaze, or perhaps he merely guessed which way her thoughts lay, for he smiled a predatory smile.

"Wondering about this?" He held up the weapon, a small, silver automatic once presented to Steele as a gift by a grateful client. "It's not even loaded. Not much of a stickler for security, your Mr Steele."

"What have you done with him?" Fear and concern flooded out the anger for a moment, but the only answer that she received was one of happy, spiteful bluntness.

"Call in your colleagues, Miss Holt. We'll talk then."

Laura moved slowly towards the door, uncertain and undecided. Her hand froze on the door handle before she could even think about complying with the order.

"Why are you doing this?"

"Doing what? Can't a boss have a chat with his employees first thing on a Monday morning? Seems natural to me." He was sitting down again, playing with Steele's automatic, loading it with a clip taken from his jacket pocket. Steele had never loaded the gun, as Laura well knew. It had never even been fired. Her infuriating 'boss' might talk of gun-toting heroes and the hard, soured private eyes of his beloved film noire - but he himself was a man who relied almost entirely on the power of the spoken word. She wondered for a moment how she could ever have mistaken this hard, unpleasant character for the man with whom she had worked these past months. He was still smiling at her, and the expression made her stomach churn.

"Get a move on." There was failing patience on display in his voice. She let her hand close around the door handle, feeling the familiar shape and texture.

"I want to know who you are." She was angry and confused, and bothered by her own apparent impotence. What could she do? What should she do? There was no way to demand answers from an armed man, and if this menacing individual had done something with the real Mr Steele - real? Well, usual anyway - then she did not want to risk antagonising him to the point where something might happen to her colleague. On the other hand, she had no intention of being ordered around by a complete stranger, in her own agency, without getting anything in the way of an acceptable explanation.

"I told you." He was swinging slightly back and forth in the chair, and she could hear the smile in his voice. "I'm Remington Steele." He laughed, and she felt her hackles rise. "And if you don't do exactly what I say, I'll be the only Remington Steele you ever see again."


The building manager was quite used to the odd hours kept by his most distinguished resident. The comings and goings of Remington Steele, millionaire, playboy and private investigator, were legendary amongst the staff at the grand apartment block. Some said that he went out late at night to make secret rendezvous with members of the criminal underworld - that he slipped out when all was dark to follow suspects, or to chase known criminals, or to break silently into houses and offices in search of vital evidence. Others were of the - somewhat more down to earth - belief that he was merely sneaking out for illicit meetings with women. Ladies of the night, perhaps, or rich widows. Young wives, eager for a little excitement when their husbands were away. There was no doubt that Remington Steele was quite capable of giving the average bored young spouse something rather more interesting to do with her time. Husbands be damned - Remington Steele knew no fear. Or at least, not much; and certainly not when there were attractive young women involved.

In point of fact, all the theories were correct, at least to some degree. True enough, Steele met with members of the underworld - but more often to fence stolen goods than to ask for information. He followed people often enough too - but his reasons for doing so had little to do with finding out what they were up to, and much more to do with finding out where they lived, and what their security systems were like. As for the breaking and entering - that had a much more basic motive than intelligence work, and was what usually resulted in the meetings with fences. Even his secret trysts with beautiful women usually had some reason beyond mere pleasure. Remington Steele, beneath his guise as a trustworthy, benevolent detective, was an accomplished con artist. Seducing beautiful young women was an art form that he had honed to perfection, and a trade that he could not cease to ply; especially living as he did in California, where beautiful young women lined the streets as far as the eye could see. Just as he was convincing himself that he was never going to con another rich socialite, yet another would walk past him in the street, flashing an irresistible smile in his appreciative direction - and then the whole sorry tale would begin again. A few thousand dollars here, a few hundred thousand there... all just in case 'Remington Steele' ever dried up, and he had to make a quick exit under some other hastily assumed identity. Just as long as Laura Holt never found out, he was on to a winning thing - for if nothing else, he had the perfect cover. Nobody suspected Remington Steele of being anything other than a rich, intelligent, perfectly groomed and perfectly blameless paragon of oft-displayed morality; and, therefore, when he had left his apartment in the dead of night one warm weekend, in the close company of a group of tuxedoed men, the general opinion amongst the locals was that their fellow resident was on his way to a dinner party. Perhaps he was going to a show, or perhaps to a premiere - there was no shortage of parties, or hosts, for the distinguished detective to choose from. Nobody had given a second glance to the huge bodyguard, who had stood beside the massive black limousine whilst the party boarded, and had then climbed into the back seat next to Mr Steele. A little over-the-top in terms of security, one or two people might have thought - but then, when you worked in Steele's business, such precautions were necessary every once in a while.

Not all of the people who frequented the apartment block were likely to have seen things in a such a way - but unfortunately for the shanghaied Steele, his most likely ally had not been present on that fateful night. It wasn't entirely unknown for Fred, the firm's chauffeur, to spend the night sleeping in his limousine outside, so as to be ready and waiting when called - but that night he had been driving Laura and Murphy instead, and had been half the city away, masquerading - had he but known it - as a crack-shot, black-belted bodyguard, ready to die in the defence of the beautiful crime queen he served. The truth as to his real nature could not have been further from this cover; for whilst Fred was loyal and hardworking, he was also stout and resolutely unhurriable, and would rather have spent his days filling in cryptic crosswords than risking his life for anybody - crime queen, private investigator, or otherwise. In point of fact Fred's true job, although it had bemused him no end at first, was to keep very close tabs on the illustrious Mr Steele, and make sure that he only did what he was supposed to do. In Fred's opinion that was rather like trying to keep firm hold of a greased pig - and a particularly intelligent, Houdini-esque type pig as well, for that matter. He had more or less given up trying to watch over the infuriating man, and didn't really understand the point of it all anyway. He wasn't stupid, and he had realised that the well-dressed foreigner could not possibly be the real Mr Steele - but then who confided in a chauffeur? Certainly not Laura Holt, who seemed to think that he wasn't capable of understanding. At least Steele himself never treated him like that. As far as Fred was concerned, Steele was a not entirely unappreciated addition to his responsibilities - something that made it ever so much more interesting than it could otherwise have been, to spend his days ferrying polite and neatly-dressed people back and forth across Los Angeles. When Steele was in the car it rarely went where it was supposed to, and almost invariably led to that particular kind of wild verbal wargame much enamoured of those of a lowly position on the employment ladder. After all, if you couldn't enjoy watching your superiors scream blue murder at each other, what could you enjoy? All in all, despite being a little annoyed that nobody had seen fit to tell him the whole truth straight out, Fred was a lot happier with his life since Steele had appeared in it. There was no more transporting of invisible employers to make-believe destinations for one thing; something that he had never really understood the necessity for. Laura Holt had always told him that it was to distract the media from the shy and retiring Mr Steele, allowing him to sneak off undisturbed. Fred had never bought that. For starters, now that Steele was no longer invisible, he was also most definitely neither shy nor retiring. He seemed to like nothing more than gliding before the flashing lights of the gathered press, and giving some smooth and neatly polished twist to an entirely adlibbed statement. That wound up Laura Holt too, Fred had been careful to observe. She might not have seen fit to tell him the whole truth, but he was piecing it together nicely all the same. One thing he was certain of - ever since Steele had walked unannounced into her life one day, and begun to weave his chaotic spell over the entire firm, Laura Holt had become somebody new. Her world seemed to have taken on a new sparkle. Maybe it took somebody at the bottom of the employment chain to notice such things - somebody to whom nobody else paid any heed. Maybe it was just that a man had more time to think when he had nothing to do but drive. Either way, Fred's humble conclusion was that Remington Steele - or whoever he really was - was more than welcome to ride in the back of his limousine. Just so long as his extracurricular excursions didn't cause too many bullet holes in the paintwork.

It was, then, to his not inconsiderable chagrin that Fred found on that bright and sunny Monday morning that his passenger for the day was not going to be Remington Steele after all - or, more to the point, that it was; but not the version to which he had become comparatively used. The tall man who climbed into the back of the limousine was accompanied by Bernice Fox - an interesting development on its own - but when Bernice then asked Fred, in a strangely subdued way, to drive to Steele's apartment, it soon became clear that matters were far from normal in other ways too. Bernice addressed her driving companion, with the most unfailing courtesy, as 'Mr Steele', and appeared to be taking down a letter that he was dictating to her. Fred frowned into the rear-view mirror. Far be it for him to ask what was going on of course - but given the rather cursory manner of the last Steele's introduction, it was a little annoying not even to be informed as to the nature of the man's apparent head transplant. In the end, annoyed past the point of sensible servility, he glared at the pair in the mirror.

"Everybody knows Mr Steele, you know," he announced somewhat testily. "Everybody at the apartment knows him. They know all about him. He's a legend."

"So I am, Fred. So I am." There was a passable attempt to insert an Irish inflection into these words, but it did not sound in the least bit convincing. Fred gave a loud snort.

"Suit yourself." He turned the car into the main forecourt of the apartment block, and glanced back through the glass screen separating him from Bernice and the impostor. "Have a nice day."

"Isn't it traditional for you to open the car door, Fred?" The Irish accent was sinking into something that sounded like bad Glaswegian, and Fred didn't even bother looking back as he shook his head.

"Actually it's traditional for me to just sit here and do nothing." That wasn't strictly true, but he was in no mood to be ordered about by people like this. "So like I said - have a nice day."

"Oh I will." The false Steele climbed out of the car, making a big show of assisting Bernice to do likewise. She followed him meekly, casting the briefest of glances back towards Fred as she headed into the building. Fred stared after them. It was all a mystery to him; but then it always had been, ever since the day he had first been given the job as chauffeur to the - then non-existent - Mr Steele. He wasn't sure how there now came to be two versions of a man who had, not so very long ago, not actually been a man at all; but he was fairly sure that, whatever the truth of the matter, nobody was going to be explaining it to him any time soon. He glowered at his reflection in the rear-view mirror, perhaps wishing that he were a younger, more physically capable man, so that he could head on into the building after the Pretender, and demand some kind of an answer. Perhaps he was just checking that his cap was straight. The harsh grey eyes that stared back at him from the mirror chastised him for remaining where he was, but remain there he did. It was his job to drive Remington Steele - whatever head the man chose to wear.


The streets of Berlin clicked along comfortably beneath the expensive leather of Remington Steele's handcrafted shoes. Dressed in a shirt so white that it threatened to dazzle the passers-by, and trousers so painstakingly casual that they gave away their tailor-made, exacting construction despite the apparent informality sewn so carefully into every seam, he was confident that the figure he cut was a dashing one - although in a city as bustling and active as Berlin, such preparations were perhaps a little pointless. He adjusted his leather jacket nonetheless, trying to ensure that the seams were as parallel with his arms as was mortally possible, and took a moment to run a hand through his hair as he caught sight of his reflection in a shop window. A sales assistant, her hair as perfect and well-groomed as his, and her bright green eyes a testament to vision itself, smiled back at him through the glass. He flashed her a grin in return, and as if in answer felt a hand touch him admonishingly on the elbow.

"You're not here to get a date."

"My dear chap, there's always time for romance." Steele gave the sales assistant a last, regretful glance, and let his companion lead him on down the street. "Where would the world be without the smile of a beautiful woman, the moment of joyous reflection when one realises one is in love?"

"Shut up." Casting anxious glances to left and right, Steele's companion led him up a side street. "If I wanted poetry I'd have become a librarian."

"Ah, poetry." Determined to play his rôle to the best effect, Steele closed his eyes for a moment, making flamboyant gestures in the air. "And what better city for poetry could there possibly be than Berlin? The tragedy of a city torn in half by a wall; the piteous cries of mothers separated from their sons; of children--"

"Do you ever shut up?" They had reached a door, set back a way into a large, grey wall that looked as though it had been a part of the scenery of Berlin since the city had first risen from the long-ago earth of Europe. Steele's companion knocked hard on the door, his other hand gripping the gun that rested unobtrusively in his waistband. The threat was not there for Steele, but as a just-in-case, should the person on the other side of the door not be the person that was expected.

"You have no soul, my friend." Steele waited quietly, listening out for the tapping sound of footsteps on the other side of the door. His companion scowled, and muttered something uncomplimentary. Unperturbed, Steele straightened his collar and regarded the door with interest.

"Who lives here?"

"Never you mind."

"As it pleases you, old fellow, as it pleases you." Steele folded his arms and tapped his toe lightly on the uneven pavement. "Whoever it is, it doesn't look like they're at home."

"Give him a chance." His escort knocked again on the door, this time casting furtive glances up and down the street all the while. High up in the wall a curtain twitched, and a window was dragged open.

"What do you want?" The call, low though it was, made Steele's escort jump in fright and take several steps backwards, as though afraid that the building might be about to catch fire. He glared up at the window, admonishment blazing from his every pore.

"Keep your voice down you idiot. Do you want half the neighbourhood to hear?" His own voice rose louder than that of his confederate, and was far more in danger of being overheard; not least because its accent was decidedly non-European, and therefore infinitely more distinct. "Just get down here and open the door."

"Alright, alright. I'm coming." The German accent became stronger over those few short words, and the tousled head disappeared. Moments later there came the sound of footsteps, followed by the scraping of a key and the grinding of a stubborn bolt. A few seconds after that the door swung open.

"About time too." Pushing rudely past the doorman, Steele's escort led the way into the house. It was dingy, and gave the impression of being a lot smaller inside than the view of the outside had suggested. Steele decided that this was just an illusion. There were a lot of doors leading off the central corridor, and that in itself was proof of a certain amount of space. He obeyed the silent command of his guide, and wandered on along a creased and rumpled blue-grey carpet.

Out of the street the light seemed dimmer, and the artificial lighting in the narrow hallway was a strain on the unaccustomed eye. Steele followed in the wake of his escort, with the doorman bringing up the rear, and soon found himself descending a steep flight of stairs into what appeared to be an underground boardroom. It was a large place, with whitewashed walls that gleamed in the glow from several large, overhead strip-lights. The floor was covered in highly-polished chessboard tiles, reflected in the broad expanse of almost impossibly clean white ceiling above. A large oak table, oval shaped, tall and sturdily set upon eight carved legs, dominated the room, with sixteen pens set at sixteen places, in readiness for the next major meeting. On this occasion only one of the places was filled, although as the new arrivals approached the table, the two men with Steele pushed the detective down into another seat, thus doubling the meeting's attendance. Steele made a great show of straightening his clothes once again, before deigning to show any interest at all in his host.

"Mr Steele." The man at the other end of the table had rested his elbows on the smooth, polished oak, and steepled his fingers to give an impression of quiet strength and confidence. "I hope that you had a good journey."

"I don't have any major complaints." His eyes surreptitiously scanning the room, Steele acknowledged the other man's question with a polite smile and a slight nod. "But on the whole I do prefer to travel first class. I'm sure that you understand."

"Naturally." The man stood up, beginning to pace slightly. "I thought that it would be better if you travelled just a little less conspicuously, though, on this occasion. I'm sure that you understand."

"Naturally." Steele waved a deprecating hand in the air. "Please. Think nothing of it." He saw a muscle in the other man's jaw tighten momentarily, and made a mental note to start playing it a little safer from now on. Image and sophistication might well be all - but self preservation was even more important. "Er... and since we're on the subject... might I ask exactly why I had to come here in the first place?"

"Fair question." The other man lowered himself back into his seat, fixing Steele with a piercing glare from his large, glass-like green eyes. They were an astounding colour, and as utterly expressionless as the emeralds they so resembled. The face and hair that belonged to them, so greying and aged were they, appeared to belong to somebody else entirely; for had it not been for the eyes, he might have been a jovial grandfather, or at the very least a kind uncle. The eyes, however, gave him a new light altogether, and suggested at something far less benevolent. He leaned closer across the table. "Do you know who I am?"

"I believe so." Business took over as Steele slipped into the role of professional with practised ease. "Right now I'm more concerned with what your interest is in me."

"As you have every right to be." The long, strong fingers interlaced themselves, and the older man leaned back in his chair until it seemed that gravity itself was being denied its traditional sport. "You're a very famous man, Mr Steele, and you come with quite a pedigree. An impressively secret pedigree."

"I've been around." A tight smile accompanied this comment, but otherwise Steele was remaining passive. There was a time for emotion, and there was a time when cold competency was all that counted; and with all of his experience, he no longer needed to wonder which was which. "Which particular part of my history is it that interests you the most?"

"Let's just say that you've spent a fair amount of time working for certain friends of mine." The smile remained steady, but for a second the eyes hardened into something extremely unpleasant indeed.

"Oh yes?" Unfortunately that didn't narrow it down much. For a man with Steele's fairly unique background, it could have meant anything at all, and he was still none the wiser as to whether or not this man knew who he really was, as opposed to who he kept addressing him as. "And may I inquire as to which friends in particular those were? I have a great deal."

"Oh I know." The man nodded slowly, gesturing vaguely with one hand in a manner that was at once both paternal and strangely threatening. "I'm referring to those of my friends who work in an official capacity for the US government." His eyes flickered again with that cold light. "The CIA."

"The... CIA?" A hard swallow seemed determined to leap into Steele's throat, and he struggled to make it behave. "Er... as in.... the CIA?"

"There's more than one?" Gentle humour showed now in the eyes of the older man. "I mean the ones with the black suits, the sunglasses, and the rather misplaced faith in their ability to blend in. Your former colleagues, I believe."

"Oh. Yeah." Steele frowned. "Yes, of course. My... former colleagues. What about them?"

"I need a little favour, Mr Steele. My business has hit one or two minor snags. Rivalry is a nasty word if one wishes to maintain a respectable profit margin."

"I don't see where I can help you." Steele kept his voice level. Whatever else was going on here, this was definitely not the time to speak too much - and risk revealing that he was not even Remington Steele, much less a former operative of the CIA. His host was all smiles, his tone of voice becoming more and more chatty by the moment.

"You have some very particular talents, Mr Steele. Methods that may be of use to me... ways of accomplishing things. I have one particular rival - a very influential businessman who is not nearly as respectable as his creditors would like to think. There is very little that I can do to remove him from my way. He has contacts, friends in high places... almost limitless funds. The CIA, on the other hand, could remove him very easily - were they not hampered by one or two... minor international laws." He folded his arms, taking on the appearance of a solid and immovable obstacle. "I would be very grateful for your assistance, and I'm sure that you'll come to see my gratitude as an extremely desirable commodity."

"Undoubtedly." Steele could practically smell the money tied up in this operation; and where there was one fortune, there was almost invariably another following on close behind - his, if he played his cards right. Okay, so there was the one minor point to consider; namely that he had no ties with the CIA, nor any desire to get some... but on the other hand... He sighed. It was no good. It wouldn't work. He thought of Laura, and hoped that she would be proud of him for having turned down such an attractive proposition. He stood up, brushing himself down as though to be perfectly sure that the seams in his trousers were perfectly aligned. "I'm sorry to disappoint you. Your offer was a fascinating one, and I would love to be able to oblige, but since all of this falls so far outside of my jurisdiction--"

"I thought that you might say that." His host looked almost pleased, as though glad to be given the chance to demonstrate some trump card. He clicked his fingers. "I would like you to meet my guarantee."

"Guarantee?" For a horrible moment Steele thought that they had Laura, and was prepared to consider doing some serious panicking. Two guards appeared from nowhere at the sound of the click - but the figure that they held between them was clearly male, even though a heavy black hood obscured his features. Whoever the figure was, he was clearly exhausted, his bound hands hampering his movements and apparently causing him some considerable amount of pain. He was slammed into the nearest chair.

"What's this in aid of?" The rough treatment, although nothing he was unused to being on the wrong side of himself, angered Steele. "Hostages aren't going to do any good. I've told you that there's nothing I can do. This is Germany, not the United States, and it's been a long time since I was a part of the CIA anyway. Too long."

"You'd better hope not." His host clicked his fingers a second time, and one of the guards stepped up to whip the hood from the prisoner's head. Steele caught a glimpse of an angry face, saw a flash of fiery red hair, and heard a familiar voice shout an angry word as a futile threat. A second later he was staring into the flushed face of Murphy Michaels. He smiled nervously.

"Hello Murphy."

"You." Murphy's eyes widened with what might have been rage - but quickly muted into something else. The American gave a tight, formal smile. "Are you alright, Mr Steele? Have they hurt you?"

"No, no, not at all." Steele thanked heaven for his rival's quick thinking and presence of mind; although his own quick eyes did not miss a certain amount of regret in the other man's face at the news that he had not been hurt. "Our hosts here have been very kind. They've given me a very interesting proposition."

"And one to which I trust you will now give much greater thought." The old man at the other end of the table was smiling in an annoyingly supercilious manner, his eyes filled with patronisation and false cheer. He waved an arm, addressing the two guards who had brought Murphy into their midst. "Take our two guests to one of the other rooms. Let them have a think about my offer. I imagine they would like to discuss it between themselves for a while?" This last was offered to Steele as a question. He smiled and nodded his assent.

"Thankyou. You're most kind."

"Oh I can be, Mr Steele. I can be." The older man was still smiling as Steele and Murphy were led past him, through another door and out into another long, thin corridor. They did not travel far along this tunnel before they were brought to a halt outside a solid-looking wooden door. One of the guards opened it, gesturing for the pair to enter, and they obeyed without argument. There seemed little point in offering resistance at this point. The door slammed shut behind them - and it did not escape their notice that a key was drawn rapidly and noisily in the lock. Seconds later they heard the sound of receding footsteps as the guards went back along the corridor. They were alone. Steele quickly untied Murphy's hands.

"Are you alright?" There was genuine concern in his voice, which emphasised the Irish inflection. Such emotion caught Murphy by surprise.

"I'm fine." He smiled for an instant; the gentle, unassuming smile which had led more than one foe into underestimating him. "How about you?"

"Me? I'm--" Steele was cut short by a heavy blow to the chest as Murphy grabbed hold of him, wrapping his fingers around his lapels and propelling him at force across the room. Hard stone slammed into Steele's back as the wall met him with unexpected suddenness, and he gave an involuntary gasp. Murphy's face swam momentarily in his vision. "Ow."

"What's going on here, Steele?" Murphy's eyes were alive with anger. "If it's another of your old pals keeping us here I want to know all about it, so I can be sure of turning you both over to the cops once I've finished slicing you into ribbons."

"It's not like that, Murphy." Despite the pain, Steele made no attempt to extricate himself from the other man's grip. "In fact it's quite the opposite. It's not my past which has got us into this mess. It's yours."

"How do you mean?" Suspicion laced Murphy's words, and made his voice thick. Steele gingerly altered his position to try to make breathing a little easier.

"It seems that somebody is after me for my CIA background - a story that has nothing to do with me, as you may recall, but rather more to do with somebody else's fantasies. It was your idea to make your boss into a former agent. You can't blame that on me."

"Pity." Murphy released him. "So what do we do?"

Steele shrugged. "Play along?"

"Oh now there's an idea. Why didn't I think of that? Your buddies out there aren't going to be at all upset when you promise to help them, and then turn out to not even know the first thing about the CIA." He glowered. "What do they want you to do anyway? This isn't the United States."

"International boundaries have never stopped the CIA in the past." Steele might have been speaking from experience, but Murphy knew enough by now not to wait for elaboration. Instead he let his colleague continue with his explanation. Steele was pacing, his hands laced behind his back, his head tipped forward slightly. The effect was less one of quiet contemplation, however, and more one of slightly irritating tedium. Murphy quelled a desire to shake the aggravating con-man until his teeth rattled.

"He wants me to get rid of a business rival. Apparently he's up to no good." Enthusiasm shone in Steele's voice, as though it were all a part of the plot of one of his favourite black-and-white detective movies. "They must be mixed up in something big, and I'd imagine that it involves people or money from the United States, in order to qualify for CIA interest."

"And both he and they can't go through official channels because he's up to his eyeballs in goodness only knows what, and they can't be seen to be operating in a foreign country." Murphy shook his head. "We can't get mixed up in this. It could drag the whole agency down."

"And if we don't, what might happen to the agency then? They've already got hold of you. They could kidnap Laura next." Steele leant his back against the wall, arms folded tightly across his chest. "We can't take that sort of risk."

"True." Murphy was very silent for a few moments. "So what do we do? You honestly think that the two of us can fool a squad of CIA operatives and take down some big local gangster - all on our own?"

Steele looked up at him, and for an instant Murphy saw the gleam of the unpolished raw material that still lay behind the carefully constructed veneer of Remington Steele - the glint of dangerous excitement that reminded him - not that he needed reminding - of just who his companion really was. A smile was playing about on the smooth face, emphasising and yet at the same time contradicting the well-rehearsed façade of innocence. Inwardly the American groaned.

"Child's play, Murphy." He was already clearly thinking it through, planning something. "First we have to be sure of the other players... and then the stage is ours."

"Stage?" Murphy had a horrible sinking feeling, which was threatening to get a lot worse.

"Have you never wanted to be a great actor, my friend?" Already Steele appeared to be somebody else. "Well now's your chance."

"Oh great." Slowly Murphy leant back against the wall, and let his head rest in his hands. "We're dead."


Laura was beginning to get very frustrated with the false Mr Steele. After arriving in the office without warning, and giving her no explanation for his presence other than it being necessary, or it being a sensible precaution, her patience was at the end of its tether. She was filled with a strong desire to break all of his perfect teeth one by one, and to ram his cultured accent back down his throat. He had clearly picked up on her frustration, and smiled patronisingly at her every time she glared in his direction.

They had spent much of the day at 'his' apartment, he having taken Bernice there earlier in the day, leaving Laura to finish with the day's appointments, whilst become increasingly concerned by Murphy's failure to show up for work. It wasn't like him not to get in touch - but when she tried calling him there was no answer. He had, she recalled, been planning to spend the weekend with a young waitress he had met in a bar downtown - but Murphy's infatuations didn't tend to last too long. He was far too wrapped up in his work for that, and far too much in love with Laura herself. Forgetting that the weekend was over, or consciously choosing to ignore that fact, simply was not his style. She was extremely tense by the time that she joined Bernice at Steele's apartment, but the false Mr Steele merely smiled at her in friendly welcome.

"Miss Holt! Good of you to join us. We were beginning to think we had left you with too great a workload to handle." There was something of Steele in him, Laura couldn't deny that. Something in the expansive gestures, the easy confidence, the faultless courtesy that always seemed faintly ironic. "Did you have to turn many clients away? I apologise for that, but I just don't feel up to handling business today. I'm sure you understand."

"I understand perfectly." She slammed the door behind her, and leant against it with her arms folded. "Now maybe we can talk about who you really are, and what you think you're doing pretending to be Mr Steele?"

"Laura, Laura, Laura." He shook his head, smiling all the while. "I do love your sense of humour. Have you spoken to Murphy today?" The sudden change of subject, occurring as it did practically mid-sentence, and playing so powerfully on her newest and unvoiced concern, startled her. She blinked.

"Murphy?" For a second she felt the gentle stroking of fear deep inside her. "No, I haven't spoken to him. Do you know where he is?"

"Ah, well." He smiled at her, looking so innocent, so irritating, and so much like Steele that she wanted to scream. "I couldn't say at this precise moment, but I do have a vague notion where he might be."

"Is he okay?" Not sure where this conversation was leading, nor knowing quite why Murphy's whereabouts were a cause for concern, Bernice looked up from the book she was reading in the corner of the room. It was something she had picked up on entering, in a vague attempt to avoid conversation with the impostor; but she was not finding it terribly comforting. She seemed to recall it having been made into a film at some point, and that very film scaring her when she had inadvertently watched part of it as a child. The text had that strange, distant familiarity of something uncertainly remembered.

"I imagine that he'll be fine." The false Steele seemed to be choosing his words very carefully. "He's with a colleague, on important business that I can't really discuss. It'll all become clear, I'm sure... but you know how it is. Walls have ears."

"With a colleague?" As far as Laura was concerned that could mean only one thing - that Murphy, wherever he was and whatever he was doing, was with the real Mr Steele. It also seemed to indicate that they were both still alive. She frowned.

"If walls have ears, Mr Steele, perhaps we should go somewhere where there aren't any walls?"

"Can't do that, Laura." The casual and infuriating tone was back in his voice. "Just because I'm not feeling up to work doesn't mean that I can disappear entirely. I must be where I can be reached, should somebody require my talents." He smiled at her, and for a second there was something hard in his eyes. "People should always know where I am, Laura. You should appreciate that, being such a vital part of my workforce."

For a second Laura intended to question him on this - to ask him yet again who he really was and what he thought he was doing. Something in his face, however, caused her to be silent. She frowned. If she was interpreting this correctly, somebody somewhere thought it important that Remington Steele be in two places at once - that he should be involved in something somewhere else, whilst still be known to be present in Los Angeles. She wanted to know more, and she wanted to demand answers with telling and satisfying force. Instead she headed for the bookcase and selected a book.

"What do we do, Laura?" Speaking very softly, Bernice peered at her over the top of the pages of her own book. Laura stared back at her.

"Nothing yet." She spoke just as softly, keeping her eyes firmly fixed on her associate, and not looking the impostor's way at all. "Just wait."


Laura held up a hand. "Not now, Bernice. The next move is up to Mr Steele." Whether she meant the real thing, or the newly arrived version, she wasn't entirely sure herself. Instead of letting herself ponder the situation further, she wandered over to the window with her book, and stole a look out at the sprawling metropolis around her. Her hands flicked idly through the pages, and she turned her eyes to begin reading as she lowered herself to sit beside the glass. Something in the street below her caught her eye. A black van, smooth and clean and very new, was parked across the road from the apartment block; a large van with smoked glass windows and a lot of aerials on the roof. There was a man standing beside it, and even though he was some distance away, it was possible to see that he was wearing a dark suit and darker glasses. As she watched him he climbed into the van, and disappeared into its hidden depths. Something about him and his chosen mode of transport struck a very large chord, and she stole a quick glance back at the false Steele. He was reading a newspaper, and much of his face was hidden from her - but she could see something of his profile. Hooked over his right ear, almost entirely hidden by the immaculate, thick black hair, was the discreet wire of an earpiece. Laura frowned. Suddenly little pieces of this puzzle were beginning to connect.


"Remind me again what we're doing here." It was dark in the casino, and Murphy could barely see his partner - but that didn't stop him thinking he had caught a glimpse of that certain smile.

"Being seen." Steele was watching a game of blackjack with a professional air, his fingers practically itching to get in on the action. "They see us, we see them."

"See who? The CIA?"

"Murphy..." Steele sighed, barely concealing his strained patience. "Look, why don't you find a game to sit in on? Find one with a low limit, listen in, look around..."

"We're not here to gamble, we're here to..." Murphy trailed off, still uncertain as to why exactly they were there. "Just how is standing around in a casino watching a game of blackjack going to help us to help the CIA shut down a crooked German businessman? You're losing me here."

"Am I really." Steele shook his head, clearly despairing of something. "Look, Murphy - where are we?"

"In a casino." Murphy was starting to feel as though he were twelve years old again, and he did not appreciate the sensation.

"And how many people are here?"

"How should I know? Loads."

"Precisely." This said, Steele slid into a suddenly vacated chair, and pulled out his wallet. Quite where the profusion of notes that seemed to line it had come from, Murphy could not imagine, and he watched in amazement as all were changed to chips before his eyes. Steele nodded in satisfaction at the multi-coloured pile before him, then proceeded to push what looked to Murphy like half the amount into the middle of the table.

"What are you doing?" Keeping his voice as an urgent hiss, Murphy leant close to his companion. A graceful, well-cared-for hand waved at him with a touch of frustration.

"Not now Murphy. Amuse yourself for half an hour." Steele turned to the beautifully attired woman who appeared to be in charge of the table, and favoured her with a dazzling smile. She smiled back, before leaping into a barrage of high-speed German. Murphy backed off, faintly dazed, but the unfazed Steele responded as though addressed in his mother tongue; and moments later the game was once more underway.

Time seemed to pass extremely slowly for the anxious American, isolated as he was in a roomful of people who did not seem capable of speaking his language. One or two of the women tried to catch his eye, but he was not feeling in his most appreciative mood. It bothered him that he was alone - in every sense that mattered - in a foreign country; and that the people he cared about probably had no idea where he was. He was worried about Laura, too, for if these people, whoever they were, had been able to spirit both himself and the legendarily slippery Remington Steele out of the States and into Germany, they would also be capable of doing much the same to anybody else who worked at the agency. Part of his brain wondered sourly which of them Laura would miss the most - himself or Steele. He didn't want to dwell too much on the answer.

"Hi." The drawl of the mid-west was clear in just that one word, and for a second Murphy stiffened. He began to turn, but a hand touched his wrist, and he took its subtle hint and remained still. The voice seemed satisfied. "Just keep watching the game, son."

"Who are you?" Relieved to find communication at last, even if it did come from some unknown man in the midst of chaos, Murphy watched Steele raking in yet another pile of winnings, and wondered if he could be pressed to turn them in as company funds.

"Just an interested party. A colleague, you might say."

"A colleague of who?" He wasn't expecting an answer, much less the light laugh that echoed briefly in his ears.

"A colleague of your colleague, perhaps. Never mind that now. Meet me in the alley out back in fifteen minutes. Both of you. Try to make sure you're alone."

"We are alone." Murphy was able to say that with utter confidence. He knew exactly what he was doing in matters of security, and was professional enough to be sure that nobody had followed them. Their employer had obviously decided to give them a long leash on which to work. His secret companion gave a short laugh.

"Look to your right. Slowly. Tell me what you see."

Murphy looked. There was a group of men watching the blackjack table, all of them dressed in tuxedos, and none of them at all distinctive. He frowned. "Nothing. No, wait." One of the men had turned his head at an odd angle, and every so often, when he thought that nobody was looking, he whispered a few words into his collar. Clearly he was wearing a mike. Murphy could have kicked himself for not noticing earlier, and the realisation that Steele had almost certainly known about this all along was even more galling. No wonder the infuriating fraudster was trying so hard to appear casual and unhurried.

"I see him. Fifteen minutes it is." There was no answer and he turned slightly, wondering if something had attracted the other man's attention. Behind him a gulf yawned, the space already filling with new arrivals eager to watch the game. The stranger had gone.

"Something wrong, Murphy?" Glancing up from the table Steele saw Murphy looking around, and frowned in interest. "Blackjack not your game?"

"Can I talk to you for a minute? About a business matter." He smiled, anxious to display his new knowledge about their observer. "We should go somewhere where a certain somebody can't listen in."

"No problem. He's just disappeared. Obviously thinks we're not interesting enough." Steele smiled and slapped him on the back as he rose to his feet. "You have to learn to trust me, Murph. Sometimes I really do know what I'm doing."

"Huh." Murphy pushed his arm away. "Are you finally calling it a day then?"

"Oh, I may give the House a chance to win back a little of their money later on." Steele grinned at the table hostess, and threw a few large denomination chips at her. She snatched them all out of the air one-handed, the movement graceful and practised, and whispered a few words of farewell in German. Steele grinned.

"Oh if only that were true, my dear. If only that were true." He sighed and collected up his chips, slipping them all into a black silk bag he appeared to have brought along for just that purpose. "Lead on, Murphy. Who are we meeting?"

"How did you know we were meeting someone?" Anger was beginning to encroach on the American's usually placid nature. Clearly he was going to have to work very hard if he wanted to display any kind of a leading hand in any of this. Steele flashed him a smile that might have been smug - or might just have been in acknowledgement of the question.

"I've been waiting for somebody to make contact. I hoped they would do it by the blackjack table. Big crowd, easier anonymity. Casinos are always the meeting places of choice for your slightly more sophisticated men of mystery."

"Of course." Murphy rolled his eyes. "If you think you can make it to the door without tripping over your ego, we have an appointment outside in fifteen--" he consulted his watch-- "make that twelve minutes - with a man who said he was a colleague."

"Jolly good." Steele flicked a chip at a waitress and collected a couple of glasses of champagne from the tray she carried. He handed one to Murphy. "I was hoping they'd be the first to contact us."


"Them." Steele took a sip of champagne, and nodded as though pleasantly surprised. "Mmm. Moet et Chandon, if I'm not mistaken. I'm not usually."

"Huh." Feeling particularly disposed to disparagement and ill-humour, Murphy swallowed the contents of the glass in one mouthful. "I'm not much of a champagne man myself."

"No, I know what you mean." Steele's eyes looked teasing even in the bad light. "It should be vodka and martini."

"This isn't a movie." Murphy stared across the sea of people around them, unable to take his mind off the thought that any one of these apparent merrymakers might be a danger to them, or to Laura and Bernice. Steele gave a crisp nod.

"No, it isn't." For a second his voice and face were hard. "This has been my life since before I was ten years-old, Murphy. When you were playing with marbles and toy cars, I was playing with my life in worse places than this." For the briefest of moments there was a real passion in his voice, underlining the Irish accent in the sporadic way to which Murphy had become so accustomed. For an equally brief second their eyes met, and the American saw a seriousness and profundity he had never before witnessed in those beguiling blue depths - before, in the blink of a second, the humour and the gentle mockery and the source of all his greatest irritations were back again, as though they had never been away. Steele grinned at him. "I know what I'm doing."

"Yeah." Murphy watched after him as he strolled away, looking like some idle prince. The man's casual confidence was infuriating, not least for the secrets it so securely masked. "That's what I'm afraid of."


"Why are we co-operating with this jerk?" Clearly confused, if not incensed, Bernice was not watching the volume of her voice. "He's using Steele's bank accounts, his limousine, his apartment... He's wearing his clothes, drinking his whisky--"

"The agency's bank accounts, the agency's limousine, the agency's apartment." Laura put her hand on Bernice's arm. "Trust me. I want to go along with him for now."

"For now? For now until when? The man's insufferable." Bernice folded both her arms and pouted. "He's incorrigible, rude, arrogant--"

"And in short just like our own Mr Steele." Laura laughed. "Don't let him get to you, Bernice. You're acting the way I did, those first few days after you-know-who turned up. He drove me mad."

"Yes." Bernice smiled, her expression one of odd smugness. "But you loved him. That made a difference." She scowled, and glared at the retreating back of their newest source of antagonism. He was heading off to greet a prospective client; a willowy raven-haired heiress who was searching for her long-lost brother. Already she was batting her lashes as this latest potential suitor, and Bernice had no doubt that the false Steele was doing likewise. So far he had spent three days in a whirlwind of similar meetings; always with people who had never before met the illustrious Mr Steele; and so far there had been no incidents. If the guests and clients wondered why the man they met was not the man whose face adorned the covers of so many magazines, they did not say anything. Perhaps they had genuinely not noticed, since the similarity between the two men was rather more than slight.

"I am not in love with - with him." Laura virtually growled out the words. "If it wasn't for the fact that these people have Murphy as well, I'd be happy to let things stay as they are. This version is far less trouble than the real Steele. he's a bit of a drain on company funds, admittedly - but so far he hasn't screwed up a single case or insulted a single client. He hasn't got us all into trouble, or inspired a single catastrophe. Life is almost back to its old pace."

"You're bored, aren't you." Bernice grinned at the glare she received in reply. "So am I. I'm tired of watching him rearranging his love life, and refusing to tell us what's going on. he hasn't said anything to you, has he? A ransom demand or something? What's it all for?"

"I'm not sure." Laura pulled her closer, staring after the false Steele with hardened eyes. "He never leaves us alone for long enough to talk things through, does he. He may not be Steele, but he's just as devious as the real thing."

"But you do suspect something." Bernice sounded excited, her voice as eager to hear Laura's ideas now as, in more normal days, she was to hear new pieces of gossip in the office. "Do you know where Murphy is?"

"I haven't got a clue, and I'm not altogether sure that our friend over there knows either - or at least, he's not sure. I think he's an agent. FBI, CIA, something like that. For some reason they need Steele - our Steele - to be somewhere else. I can only assume that he's got himself mixed up in something."

"Or you've got him mixed up in something." Bernice smiled apologetically in response to Laura's questioning stare. "Well it was you who decided that Remington Steele should be a former CIA agent. They're always so busy being so secretive all the time, they've probably never been able to check up on whether or not that's true." She raised her eyebrows, clearly torn between gravity and amusement. "All those times he's got himself into trouble, and you've had to get him out of it, and this time you've got him into the trouble." She frowned, clearly unhappy with this analysis. "And who gets us out of it?"

"I do." Laura stared at their nemesis, changing her hostile expression just in time as the simpering raven-haired heiress looked in her direction. The two women shared a smile and a polite wave, before their newest client returned to her incessant pawing at the impostor's sleeve. Laura winced.

"There are times when I can almost understand why people would never employ a woman as a private detective." She caught sight of Bernice's ill-timed smirk, and glared. "We have to talk."

"How? We can never get more than a few minutes alone. The man has eyes in the back of his head." Bernice stared at the impostor, watching with frustration as he cast yet another glance in their direction. He was working his way around, so that he could talk to his lady friend whilst still keeping the two women within his sight.

"Probably because he's got friends watching us too. Ever get the feeling somebody was listening to your every word, and hanging onto your every step? I'm sure that the office is bugged, and maybe not just by one set of people. Our good Mr Steele certainly seems to think that there are other people listening in, and if he's right, the chances are that the game is already given away. We haven't exactly been keeping our suspicions to ourselves."

"You've lost me. You think this guy is pretending to be Steele, so that somebody somewhere thinks Steele is really here. Only whoever that somebody somewhere is, they already know that this isn't the real Steele, because we gave the game away before we even knew we were playing a game." She shook her head, confused. "Well then why is this guy still here, pretending to be Steele? What's the point?"

"Maybe he likes the apartment, and the clothes and the money." Laura shrugged. "Maybe the somebody somewhere doesn't know that he isn't the real Steele. Maybe the somebody somewhere isn't the real issue. Maybe I'm barking up the wrong tree."

"You never bark up the wrong tree. That's Steele's job." Bernice sighed. "We have to get away from the pain-in-the-neck over there. The only way we can find out what's happening here is if we can do something without him looking over our shoulders all the time."

"I was hoping you would say that." Laura raised her eyebrows in merry glee. Bernice groaned.

"You're not planning to get both of us out of here, are you."

"In an ideal world, yes." Laura's tone of voice was filled with an unbelievable innocence of such an extent, that it was impossible not to think of Remington Steele himself. "We have to do something. We have to try to unravel some of this - and we're not going to manage that when we're stuck with our shadow over there, are we. That doesn't leave us with too many options."

"True." Bernice sighed. "Okay, I'm with you. What's the plan?"

"A little distraction." Laura's eyes were sparkling with a devious delight that made her seem worryingly like Steele himself. Bernice almost found it amusing to see how much her boss was coming to emulate him, despite her constant assertions that her feelings for him were best kept entirely platonic. "When I give the word, I want you to make a big deal. Shout, get in a panic, whatever. Just make sure that he's watching you."

"Panic? You really think he's going to fall for the oldest trick in the book?" Bernice shook her head, looking weary. "I suppose it's worth a try. Where are you going to go?"

"There's a black van parked outside. Wherever we go, it goes. I'm going to take a closer look, and maybe try to get some answers out of whoever's inside. It might just be that they're working with our impostor; but there's a chance they're our somebody somewhere. They may even be the somebody somewhere who've taken Steele somewhere else."

"I think that made sense." Bernice gave a curt nod. "Okay, I'm with you. Good luck."

"I'm going to need it." Laura moved away almost immediately, heading for the nearest filing cabinet, which just happened to be positioned right by the door. Once there she opened the top drawer and made a big show of trying to locate a particular file. Bernice watched her with one eye, and with the other watched the false Steele. He was glancing up at them from time to time, all the while talking to his simpering heiress. A photographer working, she presumed, for one of the local newspapers was moving around the couple, trying to get a picture of them; but try as he might the gallant 'Mr Steele' did not seem able to present his best side to the camera and give his best smile to his heiress, whilst still maintaining an effective watch over the two agency women. It was not hard for Bernice to pick the best moment.

She chose the second that the photographer passed between her and Steele, blocking their view of each other with a shoulder piled high with equipment. His broad back, laden with flashbulbs and spare lenses, provided scant but effective cover, and filling her lungs with as much air as she felt able, Bernice let out a scream to match all others. The echoes of it resounded about the room, causing the photographer to spin, the flashbulb to flash wildly, the camera to click off a succession of unnecessary frames, and the heiress to leap high in the air. She stood stock still for a moment, staring from Bernice to the staggering, overbalanced photographer - or, more particularly, to the streams of exposed film pouring to their ruin as a shining black river from the mouth of his camera. Her lower lip began to wobble. Stamping her right foot so hard on the ground that the insubstantial stiletto heel supporting her shoe snapped cleanly in half, she opened her mouth and began to wail. The sound rose and fell like an air-raid siren, and as soon as she became aware that the heel of her prized shoe was broken, her tears fell all the faster, and the volume of her shrieks began to increase. Bernice blinked. The false Steele, alarmed, took a step away from her, and Bernice, scared that in his panic he might look to Laura, gathered her wits back from the chaos around her and let out yet another scream, this one even more powerful than the last. The heiress stared at her, blanching furiously beneath her thick makeup, and let rip with a scream of her own, filled with anger, indignation and petulance. The photographer dropped his camera.

"What's going on?" In his amazement the false Steele had entirely lost his cultured, English-sounding accent, and all pretence at occasional Irish was gone. He was gaping at the carnage around him, trying to avoid the clawing grip of the heiress, who clearly expected him to put everything to rights with one more charming smile. "Miss Fox..."

"Wolf," Bernice corrected him without thinking. Much though she hated that name, the least this fake could do if he wanted to pretend to be Steele was to call her by the wrong animal. It was tradition. He frowned at her, clearly confused.

"What? Never mind, just-- What on Earth is the matter?"

"I..." She trailed off, suddenly remembering that she had never taken the time to come up with a cover story. "Er... I saw a spider."

"A spider?" He sounded amazed. "You screamed because you saw--"

"A spider?!" Her voice a painful shriek, the heiress let out another little scream, wiped the tears from her face along with a fair portion of her makeup, and leapt onto the nearest piece of furniture - a desk as it happened, loaded with papers that blew and fluttered every which way. 'Steele' stood helplessly beneath her, in the midst of a storm of whirling paperwork, and his shoulders slumped ever so slightly. Bernice quashed the sudden need to giggle.

"Over there," she added, somewhat lamely, and pointed to a noticeably spider-free section of wall. "It was a big one." The heiress let out a whimper, and Bernice could not help adding, "Probably poisonous."

"Do you get poisonous spiders in LA?" The photographer, whose accent clearly marked him out as a non-resident of the area, began to look nervously around him, gathering up trailing leads and pieces of film as though afraid that some avenging arachnid might try to use one as a ladder. The false Steele glowered at him.

"Does it matter?" He pushed away one of the mascara-streaked hands threatening to mess up his previously immaculate hair, and turned to the last place in which he had seen Laura. Unsurprisingly, she was now nowhere in sight. Without preamble he stalked up to Bernice, grabbed her by the shoulders, and gave her a shake that startled the heiress and the photographer as much as it did her. The former abruptly stopped her whining, and the latter dropped his camera, shattering the six hundred dollar lens into tiny shards of hand-ground glass.

"Where is she?" Again the cultured voice was forgotten, and the false Steele was suddenly little more than an expensively-dressed thug. He shook Bernice again, this time so hard that his tiny earpiece fell loose from its perch, and hung, spinning, on the end of a long wire. Bernice could not prevent herself from staring at it, and could not stop the stark comprehension from filling her eyes. The false Steele smiled unpleasantly.

"How long have you known?" He didn't wait for an answer, but instead threw her aside, letting her fall heavily against the filing cabinet. The photographer moved over to help her, and the impostor stared at him with open contempt.

"You lot better make yourself comfortable." As if following his own advice, he sat down on the edge of the desk and pulled a shining steel-coloured revolver from inside his suit. "We're all going to be here together for quite some time."


Laura Holt ran until her strength began to flag. She had taken the stairs to get down to the ground floor, in the hope of throwing the impostor off the scent had he happened to give chase. No shouts had come after her, however, and there was no sign of him in the lobby. She had slipped out in the midst of a group of people apparently leaving from a business conference, and had found temporary refuge in a nearby alleyway. From there she could watch the black van, and although the smoked windows did not allow her much chance to see what was going on inside, she did not get the impression that the people within were in any way inclined to panic. Either her escape did not matter to them, or they were not aware of it. She hoped the latter, since that would seem to suggest that they were not working with the impostor. Quite suddenly she wanted them to be independent of him and his influence, so that she might at least stand a chance of finding out a little more about what was going on. Wondering if the false Steele would see her from the window above if she went over to the van, and worried about the implications this might have for Bernice, she took a deep breath, tried to clear the confusion from her mind, and walked purposefully across the road.

The van was large, long and featureless. So clean and perfect and seamless was it that it was several moments before Laura could discern where body finished and doors began. She wondered what she should do. Knock? Try to open a door? Call out 'Open Sesame' in a loudly authoritative voice? She decided against the latter, and was about to attempt the former when, with a loud, hissing noise like the movement of some pneumatic device, the door nearest to her slid open. She stared into the innards of the van.

"Good morning." The speaker was the closest of three men, all identically dressed in black suits; all neat, all carefully pressed, all smart to the point of obsession. The men themselves were virtually identical; all were tall, all were athletically built, all were dark-haired and wore stylish, mirrored sunglasses. Not a flicker of emotion showed on any one of the three, clean-cut faces turned towards her. It was somewhat off-putting, to say the least.

"Miss Holt." The second man voiced the words as a confirmation, not as a question, but Laura nodded in response all the same. The man returned the nod in a brisk, efficient manner, then moved forward, grasped her hand, and helped her - dragged her? - into the interior of the van. Immediately the door hissed shut. For the briefest of seconds there was intense darkness, of the kind that took her breath away, disorientated her, made her wonder if she would still be in the same place when the light did return. Almost immediately, however, a soft, almost natural glow filled the space around her. She could see the three men again, in all their identical finery; could see banks of equipment, like sheets of technology; button- and switch-encrusted marvels bedecked with flashing LEDs, humming panels of awe-inspiring wonders, and TV sets that blinked and buzzed with static. As she watched, one of the TV sets snapped into life, showing her a clear image of the inside of the office she had just left. Bernice and the photographer were sitting on the floor, apparently swapping telephone numbers, whilst the false Mr Steele was pacing up and down before the window, a gun in one hand, and an hysterical heiress in the other. He seemed to be muttering something under his breath.

"Who are you?" She was unable to take her eyes of the screen as she asked the question. The third man shifted slightly, then guided her - forced her? - into a seat.

"FBI, ma'am," he told her, his voice slightly curt. Despite this crispness the officiousness of it all was eased slightly by a touch of something that might have been understanding. She frowned, finally turning to face him.

"I thought you were CIA?"

"He's CIA." The first man nodded at the screen; or more particularly at the impostor pacing up and down in the display. Laura frowned.

"Oh. I see." She didn't, which she was sure was blatantly obvious, but she didn't really care. "Do you have the real Remington Steele? He can be a pain-in-the-neck at times, but I'd kind of got used to him."

"We don't have the real Mr Steele, ma'am, no." The second man was frowning. "In fact it wasn't until we began listening in on your conversations that we first became aware that that gentlemen there wasn't the real Mr Steele. We believe that the real thing is no longer in the country."

"The CIA have him?" Hope strained through in Laura's voice. At least if the CIA had him they probably wouldn't hurt him... at least until they realised that he wasn't really Remington Steele at all, and was lying about having been a member of their organisation... in which case she would probably never see him again. She would probably never see anybody again.

"No ma'am." The third man tapped the screen. "This man was sent to impersonate Mr Steele in order to keep us, and a certain third party, off the scent. The real Mr Steele appears to be working with the CIA in order to shut down the operations of a major criminal operating on a multi-national level."

"He is?" This was news to Laura - and it was quite a new direction for her associate as well. She wondered what his new CIA colleagues would think had they known that Steele himself was also a major criminal operating on a multi-national level. Presumably they would be a bit surprised. "Oh. Well... that's good."

"Not really ma'am. The person he's trying to put out of business has been on the CIA's most wanted list for years. They were happy to take all the help that they could get in order to put him away. Unfortunately that help is coming from a criminal who is just as dangerous as the man they're after."

"Mr Steele?" Panic showed in Laura's voice, but the three FBI men clearly had no knowledge about its likely cause. Agent One shook his head.

"No ma'am. A man by the name of Leon Walken. He happens to be on the FBI's most wanted list."

"And the CIA is helping him stay out of your way if he helps them nail their man?" Agent Two nodded in confirmation of this, and Laura felt a burst of surprising pride. It was nice to know that she was managing to stay on top of some of this at least. "But you want Walken?"

"And we've been working with Curtis Heyer, the man that the CIA are after, in order to put Walken away." Agent Three smiled at her in an unexpected show of emotion which lasted precisely two seconds. After that the mask of stoic rigidity was back. "The CIA want to stay out of things, for obvious reasons. They don't want to be seen to be operating outside of the United States. That's why your boss was brought in to handle the affair. It was thought that, since he himself is a member of the CIA - albeit a former member - he would be the best man for the job. Unfortunately things got a little out of hand."

"My second-in-command was kidnapped too," Laura interjected heatedly, forgetting for the moment that she was supposed to be the second-in-command, and not the leader of the agency. None of the three seemed to show any recognition of her slip.

"And now we're very much afraid that Mr Steele is going to get caught in the crossfire. He was brought in for the CIA to use as a frontline agent, and Heyer wants him removed from the scene, for obvious reasons - hence the CIA's little attempt at play-acting. It was designed to make both the FBI and Heyer think that Steele had given up and come home."

"It doesn't seem to be working," Laura pointed out. Agent Two laughed.

"Don't worry. We're not about to kill your boss, and so far Heyer is still being fooled by the subterfuge. What we want is for Steele to come and work for us as well."

"You want to make him get Walken for you and Heyer for the CIA?" Laura was beginning to flounder again. Agent Three nodded hard. His sunglasses did not so much as wobble, leading her to wonder if they really were glasses, or if they were just a natural part of his facial features. Either that or they were bolted to his forehead. "Won't the CIA be cross?"

"They can't afford to be. They know that Walken is as dangerous as Heyer. They can't be seen to favour one or the other of them - and besides, Steele is a colleague. They won't be too cross." Agent One let a brief smile etch its way across his lips, before killing it instantaneously. "What do you say?"

"Me? What am I supposed to do about it?" Laura had a horrible feeling that she knew the answer to that one. As if life wasn't complicated enough already...

"There's already a ticket ready for you, on the next available airline, to Steele's last known destination. You'll be met there by one of our agents." Agent Two held out an airline ticket. "Or possibly one of their agents. Try to be sure that that doesn't happen."

"What will their agent look like?" Hesitantly Laura took the ticket, wondering how they had known she would be available to accept it. Perhaps they read minds as well. Somehow she wouldn't have been surprised.

"He'll be easily distinctive, ma'am. These CIA agents all dress the same. Dark suits, dark glasses, convinced they blend in." Laura felt a small smile begin to cross her face at these words, but Agent One had shown not the slightest hint of irony as he spoke them. She realised that he had not meant it as a joke.

"Er... And your agent? What will he look like?" She was sure that she already knew the answer.

"You won't see him, ma'am, but he'll see you." Agent Three shook her hand. "Good luck." The door slid open behind her, and she felt cool air wash around the back of her neck.

"Oh. Er... right." She nodded. "How long have I got before I have to be at the airport?"

"You're already at the airport, ma'am." Agent One gestured behind her and she turned, seeing the lights and signs of the airport outside the van. She frowned, not having noticed any signs of movement or engine noise, and a little disorientated over how she had come to be there. A hatch slid open beside her, revealing the front compartment of the van, where a tall, dark-haired, dark-suited man in mirrored sunglasses was seated at the controls. In contrast to the back of the van, the driving compartment was very normal and down to earth, with not the slightest hint of high-technology or vast expenditure. The driver, who was clearly Agent Four in this little band of would-be James Bonds, raised a hand in what might have been a greeting or a farewell. With a sinking heart, Laura disembarked. The door slid shut behind her, and the van moved away. She sighed.

"Oh boy."

"Can I help you with your luggage, ma'am?" A neatly suited teen with a luggage cart had materialised by her left shoulder, and she turned around to tell him that she had no bags. Beside the boy, looking neat and tidy and just as she had left it in her wardrobe back home, stood her suitcase. A label fluttered gaily from the handle, announcing her name, her hometown and her intended destination. She felt a strange urge to gulp.

"Er... thankyou." She consulted her ticket. "Gate ten, please."

"No problem ma'am." As he headed off she thought that she caught sight of a small earpiece partially hidden by his hair. She dismissed the thought. Right now all that she wanted was to get on that plane and relax.


"Steele?" Murphy's voice sounded distant, and Steele did not hear his words at first. "Steele? Can you hear me?"

"No." For a second there was silence, before the smooth features of Remington Steele emerged from behind the huge and gaudy pot plant he had chosen as his place of refuge. "We're supposed to be keeping quiet, Murphy."

"Don't try to tell me my job." Irritation of a most familiar kind flashed through the American's too-tense body, and he shot a fierce glare at his partner. "You may be the casino king, but surveillance is my tour de force."

"Naturally." The smooth voice was filled with placating airs, which for some reason irritated Murphy even more. He suppressed the urgent desire to throw both Steele and his gaudy pot plant across the lobby.

"How much longer are we going to wait here?" he asked instead. "My legs do not want to be standing still any more."

"I know the feeling. My own are threatening some serious misbehaviour." Steele adjusted his position slightly to ease the pain. "But Heyer's sure to be along soon."

"Yeah, right. Because the CIA said so." Murphy scowled, trying to make his displeasure as clear as possible whilst remaining still and practically silent. It was not easy. "Run this one past me again, huh? This guy kidnaps us, but it's okay and we have to forgive him, because he's pals with the CIA, and he's helping them to get rid of this other guy who's a major criminal?"

"Murphy..." Steele sounded vaguely pressed.

"But the thing is, if this guy kidnapped us, surely that makes him a bad guy too? Haven't you wondered how come he knows all about this guy he wants to shut down? How he knows exactly what this guy is up to? And not just that - why does he want him shut down? A sudden attack of duty? conscience? what exactly? If you ask me, he's just as bad the guy he wants us to stop."

"Undoubtedly." Steele's eyes were fixed on something at the other end of the lobby. "I agree entirely, Murphy, but now really isn't--"

"You agree with me?" Murphy sounded faintly shell-shocked. "Do you promise not to tell Laura about that?"

"I promise." Steele flashed him an amused glance. "But I'm afraid that I really do agree with you. Quite obviously our... client is trying to remove a business rival, rather than genuinely trying to bring a crook to justice. Of course quite where that leaves us is anybody's guess."

"What about the CIA. Maybe they'll listen?" Murphy did not have much faith in that, especially after his meeting, two days previously, with a brace of CIA operatives outside the casino. Despite the darkness of the cloudy night both men had worn dark sunglasses, which had hardly been an encouraging start. They had both proved to be disturbingly single-minded, and quite determined in their methods of persuasion. They wanted Curtis Heyer put away, and did not seem to care how that was done. Murphy had got the distinct impression that his safety, and the safety of Remington Steele, were minor points. Steele, as a former member of the department, was apparently supposed to be willing to put his life on the line - to throw it away if necessary - in order to see the mission completed. Murphy himself did not seem to be of any importance at all.

"I rather think that we're on our own, Murphy. The CIA can't be seen to be involved in a foreign country. They're not supposed to even be active in Germany. Imagine the diplomatic incidents it could inspire, if the East Germans were to hear of their involvement in a city as politically sensitive as Berlin. We may be on the west side of the Wall, but it's still a potentially nasty situation." He shook his head. "No. We're alone. No back-up, no friends." His voice, apparently independently, took on a heavy drawl. "Alone, Murph - and in an unfriendly city. It's mighty cold out here, and mighty unforgiving."

Murphy rolled his eyes. There were times when Steele was even more infuriating than normal. He didn't think that he would ever get used to a man who could be startlingly professional one moment, and so like a child acting out a favourite movie the next. He was forever slipping into the oddest of jargon, using words like 'crook', which were hardly used by anybody these days, outside of the old movies they screened late at night on Cable TV. Trying to ignore Steele's attempts to make his collar stand up, like some tough guy from a fifties movie, Murphy glanced along the length of the lobby, and saw their target emerging from the lift.

"Hey." There was no response from Steele, who was apparently trying to check his reflection in the shiny metal rim of the pot he was hiding behind. His movements were making his elbows stick out either side of the plant, creating an interesting mutant effect. Murphy hissed at him, trying to wave his arms in as unobtrusive a way as possible. "Hey! Steele!"

"What?" The innocent blue eyes glanced towards him, then snapped suddenly over towards the lift. "Ssh. He's coming."

"You don't say." Murphy peered cautiously out, Their target, Curtis Heyer, was striding across the lobby, the early morning sunlight shining through the glass doors and glinting off the impressive array of golden jewellery that he wore on his fingers, wrists and neck. He wore a silk suit in a pale shade of pastel pink, with a pale blue shirt and a tie of strikingly bright, crisp white. He wore his highlighted black hair to his shoulders, streaked with hair gel so that it stuck up in occasional spikes on the top of his head. Whether or not he thought that the effect was stylish was not clear, but certainly he seemed to be the kind who valued his appearance most highly. Murphy raised his eyebrows. Whatever he had been expecting of this fabled crime kingpin, it certainly hadn't been a man who looked as though he had stepped straight out of the pages of a teenager's pop music magazine. By the look on Steele's face he was similarly bemused.

"Not exactly Sidney Greenstreet, is he." The con-man's appraising eyes scanned the man with a look of faint disappointment. Murphy, who wasn't entirely sure who Sidney Greenstreet was, didn't bother answering. Instead he pulled himself back into the shadows of his hiding place, as Heyer began striding in their direction. Steele flattened himself against the wall, peering earnestly through the thick leaves of his pot plant. For a second it seemed almost as if Heyer had seen them, and was on his way over to challenge them directly; but at the last moment he veered aside and waved a greeting to somebody neither Murphy nor Steele could see.

"Hey!" A strongly accented voice called out to the unseen guest. "I wasn't expecting you to arrive so early. You want a drink in the bar first?"

"No thankyou," came a voice in response - a voice that both eavesdroppers knew very well indeed. Still beyond their sight, but no longer beyond their recognition, Laura Holt shook hands with Curtis Heyer and flashed him her most professional smile. "Perhaps we can just get straight down to business."


The hotel restaurant was practically deserted at such an early hour, the breakfast crowd still being more of an insubstantial trickle. Laura and Heyer chose a table that was quite suitably secluded, and sat down together to peruse the well-stocked menu. A pair of tuxedoed waiters glided out of the ether to serve them, and Laura glanced up at them both as they hovered nearby. Both were tall and lean, and both appeared to be dressed in clothes that did not quite fit. The first, who was red-haired and sported a moustache that looked oddly crooked, was wearing a jacket that was noticeably too small. Far too much of his wrists protruded from the sleeves, and the material seemed severely strained around his shoulders. The second man was of a slightly slimmer build, and was wearing a jacket that was a trifle too large. All the same he was contriving to look stylish in it, and even as Laura looked up at him he brushed a speck of invisible lint from one sleeve, before scratching absently at a beard he seemed entirely unfamiliar with. Laura wasn't sure, but she thought that she saw it move. He stared at her as she frowned up at him, and the all-too familiar gleam of his clear blue eyes made her choke back her first attempt at ordering. Heyer looked up in surprise.

"Having problems with the translation?" he asked her. She frowned, hesitated, and then nodded. Heyer smiled and barked off a succession of demands in high-speed German in the general direction of the two waiters. The red-haired one looked shell-shocked, and stammered a hesitant 'jawohl'. The dark-haired man gave a confident smile which had been entirely predictable, and gave a typically smooth reply. He glided away, but not very far, apparently intending to confer the order on to the kitchens by the power of thought alone.

"Do you think she recognised us?" Murphy, who had once again taken up a station behind a convenient pot plant, spoke in a hoarse whisper. One or two other diners seated nearby looked up in faint interest at this pair of ill-clad waiters conferring in such hushed tones, whilst apparently trying to hide behind a particularly insubstantial rubber plant. The two waiters themselves were blissfully unaware of the attention.

"Of course she recognised us." Steele tried to adjust his false beard by checking his reflection in the glass of an Impressionist painting. "I don't know where Walken got these disguises from, but I think they must have come from the local toy store."

"If they help us stay incognito, they're doing their job." Murphy peered past a large and fleshy leaf. "Can you hear them? I can only catch every other word."

"I can hear them. They're talking about a mutual friend, and about trying to put Walken out of business." Steele edged closer, in the pretence of straightening a tablecloth. "They're planning a sting."

"A sting?" Murphy winced at this brazen use of outdated slang. "That's your department, surely."

"Not that kind of sting. A police operation." Steele frowned, trying to be sure of the words he was hearing as a group of loud-voiced guests began to flood into the room. "No, FBI. Oh great. They're taking Walken down tonight. Must be planning to hit his casino mob-handed."

"The FBI? Tonight? That doesn't give us much time." Murphy shook his head in frustration. "Well we can't warn him. He's Mr Slime, and he deserves to get shut down."

"The CIA might not see it that way, and we can't risk getting them angry. There's too much they can find out about us. Too many stones they can look under." Steele sighed into his heavy, itchy beard. "We'd better get back there. Say something."

"But what about Laura? If we tell Walken about Heyer's plans, we're catching her right in the middle of it all."

"Fine." Steele seemed to be thinking, and for the first time Murphy was glad they were together. It was a relief to know that somebody with such an active brain was around to come up with a plan - even though nine times out of ten that plan proved to be unworkable. "I'll go back and warn Walken. You stay here and try to speak with Laura. It looks like she's here on her own, so it should be safe." He surveyed his companion's blatantly false moustache with an ill-concealed smile. "You might want to get rid of the disguise though. I think you're wearing it upside down."

"Huh. At least I don't look like I've got a bird nesting on my chin." Murphy hesitated, momentarily torn. "Er... are you going to be okay? Going back to Walken, I mean; on your own."

"Concerned, Murphy?" Steele's eyes glinted teasingly, and Murphy glared at him.

"Hardly. But it's not going to achieve anything if you get yourself shot." He smiled sarcastically. "Excepting for my own personal satisfaction that is."

"You're all heart." Steele clapped him on the shoulder. "I'm off. Take care of Laura."

"I always do." If it was meant as a barbed comment to establish his definite seniority where Laura was concerned, he got no indication as to whether or not the remark had struck home. Like a shadow Steele was gone. A patron clicked his fingers at the false waiter as he glided past, but Steele paid the man no attention. Worried that somebody might try to summon him next, Murphy withdrew back into the cover of the rubber plant, trying to ignore the strange looks he was getting. Laura, he was sure, would find him soon enough.


Like the hotel restaurant, Walken's casino was all but empty first thing in the morning. Cleaning staff bustled about removing cigarette butts and empty glasses, polishing tables and roulette wheels and hunting for stray chips. A few of the poker tables were still running games begun the night before, the players now decidedly slumped in their seats, in the midst of clouds of stale smoke and the smell of people who had lost more than they could afford. Most of them seemed to be losers, which wasn't a surprise. Not many winners waited around all night, clinging on to the bitter end.

"Something interest you, Mr Steele?" Walken had appeared out of nowhere, as immaculately dressed as ever, his ageing frame filled with the new zest of life that morning. He seemed very different to the cold, precise man Steele had been introduced to in the underground meeting room. A pair of bodyguards hung nearby, as always, one of them bearing the distinct stamp of the CIA.

"The chap with the red cummerbund is cheating." Steele nodded at the man in question; a middle-aged fellow of average build at a table no more than a few paces away. His blood-red lips were clamped tightly around a fat cigar that dribbled ash.

"He is?" Walken frowned, staring at the man, unable to discern any sign of irregularity. "Are you sure?"

"Positive." It was actually quite a simple scheme, but it probably took one who knew it to see it. "He hasn't been in the game since the start, has he."

"No. He arrived about three hours ago." The crime boss's expression cleared. "You mean he was working with the man who was in his place before. The first man planted some cards."

"That's about the size of it. He's quick, though. I'm impressed." In point of fact he wasn't, terribly, since he had worked the scheme himself a hundred times without ever being spotted. The man with the red cummerbund was bordering on drunk, and was far too impressed with his own ingenuity. "Would you like me to deal with him?"

"Not your department." Walken frowned suddenly. "Why are you back here anyway? I thought you were supposed to be tailing Mr Heyer?"

"I left Murphy with him." Steele glanced about, suddenly seeing dark-suited and dark-glassed men wherever he turned. "Is there somewhere we can talk?"

"We can talk here." Taking his arm in a way that was not entirely friendly, Walken led the way across the room. "What is it?"

"Heyer has done a deal with somebody. They're planning to hit this place tonight, and close you down for good. From what I heard, they have information about the existence of certain files that they hope to gain possession of in the raid. I didn't quite catch what the files were about."

"Again, Mr Steele, that's not your department." Walken sighed, the sound hot with exasperation. "I suppose I shall have to alter my plans for this evening. You're sure about your information?"

"Positive. Murphy and I overheard Heyer talking to his new associate. They sounded as though everything was already set up." He glanced about, vaguely aware that the scattering of CIA men in the room were leaning on his every word. Whether it was him or Walken that was wired for sound, or just the room itself, he wasn't sure. He certainly hoped that it wasn't him, or the cat was already out of the bag - for he had no intention of telling Walken about the involvement of the FBI, and particularly the involvement of Laura Holt. "Do you want me to do anything?"

"Keep out of the way. I have the rest of the day to talk with my allies about defending this place, or just making sure that there's nothing here to suggest at illegal activities. You worry about your job. Our colleagues can help me on this, but handling Heyer still has to be your special task."

"I'll get back there. I just thought I should come and warn you." Steele's eyes drifted nervously back to the poker table, where the man in the red cummerbund was being escorted to his feet by a pair of large men. "What'll happen to him?"

"Not your concern." Walken stared at the man, who was looking towards him in obvious fear. The two men holding him began dragging him in the direction of the back door. "He won't cheat in here again."

"I didn't point him out to you so you could kill him." For a moment there was ice in Steele's voice, and he could have kicked himself for it. Walken was not the kind of man he wanted to antagonise. The older man's eyes narrowed, then he smiled in an openly dismissive manner.

"I didn't say he was going to be killed. And if I were you, I would leave now Mr Steele." The smile remained, but the face around it was hard and cold. "I need proper proof, proper details on Heyer's multi-national operations. Things that the CIA can use to close him down. Once people know the truth about his terrorist links, it'll be simple enough for your government to get involved."

"My government." Steele didn't consider the CIA to be connected in any way with his government - but then he wasn't altogether sure which government his was. "Just why is it that they're the ones dealing with this, instead of your government?" Walken's eyes narrowed again. "Or were you too scared that they'd arrest you at the same time they picked up Heyer?"

"You're treading on thin ground, Mr Steele." Walken stared at him for a second, a smile twitching at the corners of his lips. "Don't be here when I get back." With that he spun on his heel and marched away across the room. Steele stared after him, silently chastising his mouth for running away like that. It wasn't something that it did often, but it had a habit of choosing the wrong moments. One of these days it was going to get him killed. Straightening the bowtie he wore - part of the waiter's uniform, which he was actually rather beginning to like - he took a deep breath and headed towards the back door. He had a nasty suspicion that a man in a red cummerbund was in need of his assistance.


"Murphy?" Laura felt decidedly foolish peering through the leaves of every pot plant in the restaurant, especially now that it was rather more full than it had been before. She was sure that he was hiding behind one of them, but she couldn't remember which one she had seen him and Steele dive behind. It wasn't until she noticed the black-sleeved arm protruding from a crooked rubber plant that she eventually spied him. She hurried over, extricating him from his leafy refuge, and led him out of the restaurant.

"Murphy!" Her relief could wait no longer, and she gave him an enthusiastic hug. "How are you?"

"Fine." He considered holding onto her for a little longer, but allowed the hug to come to its too-sudden end. "A little confused, perhaps..."

"I know the feeling." She gestured at the false moustache, now barely clinging to his upper lip. "Why the disguise?"

"We're not supposed to let Heyer see us. He's not supposed to know who we are." Murphy shrugged. "I have no idea why."

"I think it's so that you don't get shot to pieces by his henchmen. He's a little sensitive about people trying to put him out of business." Her eyes narrowed in concern. "You do realise, don't you, how dangerous these people are?"

"I had pretty much figured that out, yeah." He tugged off the moustache, wincing slightly at the pain from the adhesive. "Look - what are you doing here? Or shouldn't I ask?"

"I was recruited." She smiled at his confusion, feeling glad that she was not the only one floundering desperately. "Which is just as well, I think. What are you doing, exactly? Hiding behind rubber trees in a restaurant with a ridiculous false moustache and a stolen waiter's uniform that doesn't fit. How is this going to help accomplish anything?"

"I don't know." They wandered together from the hotel, heading for the quieter spaces in the grounds where they could talk rather more comfortably. "I guess we were just trying to find our feet. I don't think much of working for a slime-ball to close down another slime-ball. But then you'd know all about that. You seem to be doing the same thing yourself."

"Ah, but I'm working for the FBI, not the CIA. We have a whole different class of slime-ball." She smiled, her eyes shining in the way he knew so well - the way that told him she had an idea. "And I think I just might have the situation figured out."

"You're working for Heyer, aren't you." He sounded almost disappointed in her. "The man is as bad as Walken, you do realise that?"

"I bow to your better knowledge of the situation, but I'm afraid I don't know the first thing about either of them." She grinned at him, looking very enthusiastic. "I only got in last night. My FBI contact put me in touch with Heyer, after the world's longest collection of secret procedures and exchanges of passwords. I made Heyer think I was on his side - told him that I had a sure-fire way to deal with Walken. We're going in there mob-handed tonight. He thinks that the FBI will be backing him up; that it's a proper raid. It isn't, of course. Heyer's men will clash with Walken's, they can fight it out amongst themselves for a while, and then the local police force can come and deal with it all - which is what should have happened from the start."

"Oh." Murphy's hard swallow and decided lack of enthusiasm took Laura by surprise. "You've got it all... planned."

"Yes..." She glared up at him. "Murphy... what are you hiding?"

"Nothing. Exactly." He sighed. "Look, we didn't know what you were doing. We had no idea that--"

"Murphy..." Her eyes told him not to hedge the issue, but he hesitated a moment longer before answering.

"Steele thought it was important that we keep on the right side of Walken and the CIA. He heard about your raid, and thought that you were working with the authorities. He went to warn Walken."

"He did what?" Laura was incredulous. "How could he be so stupid? If Walken knows about the raid - if he thinks it's an official move - none of this will work. He probably won't even be there. Oh great. This is wonderful, Murphy. Steele strikes again."

"Actually he's been pretty useful up until now. This isn't his fault." Murphy winced. "I did not say that."

"Yes you did." She flashed him a fond smile and squeezed his hand. "Don't worry. I promise not to tell him."

"So what do we do?" He squeezed her hand in return, largely just as an excuse to hold it a little longer. "Tell Heyer to call off the raid?"

"Can't do that. He's in meetings for the rest of the day - secret meetings, with his nasty little allies. Nobody can get in touch with him." She frowned suddenly. "And speaking of not being in touch... Did Steele say he was coming back here after filling in Walken?"

"Not exactly. But I certainly assumed that he was." Murphy glanced at his watch, surprised by how much time had passed since he had last seen his associate. "I'd better get after him."

"No." Laura shook her head. "If he's gone and got himself into trouble again, I'm not risking you falling into the same trap. We have to play this a little more carefully."

"How exactly?" It was good to be working with Laura again - like coming home, in a strange kind of way.

"I'm not sure." She smiled, looking apologetic and determined - and, to his eyes at least, utterly irresistible - all at the same time. "Show me Walken's place. That's as good a place to start as any. And if we're really unlucky, we might be able to rescue Steele at the same time."

"That's if he needs rescuing." Murphy rather imagined that the con-man was more likely to be discussing blackjack with a certain table hostess in whom he had been displaying an obvious interest since that first night. Laura shrugged.

"Whatever. Either way, I want a look at Walken's place. I have some rethinking to do, and not a whole lot of time to do it."


The alley was narrow and damp, the sides the piled high with rubbish and the walls daubed with graffiti written in at least three different European languages. The man in the red cummerbund struggled valiantly in the grip of the two bodyguards, his cowering, slightly drunk persona apparently abandoned. Clearly the two men were two strong for him, however, and it was a battle he was quickly losing. One of the bodyguards drew a gun.

"We don't like cheats." He spoke in heavily-accented English, in response to his victim's repeated curses in that language. "People round here don't cheat twice."

"You don't know what you're doing." The man in the red cummerbund struggled anew, but to continued no avail. "You don't know who I am."

"And we don't care." The second bodyguard threw the still struggling cheat up against the wall. "Now shut up."

"Oh great." Whispering the words to himself as he hid in the doorway of the casino, Remington Steele watched this exchange with increasing concern. Clearly the need for some action was growing all the time, but he had no desire to risk his life for anybody, much less a complete stranger. Still, his conscience told him, trying to rationalise the situation. You did get him into this. That was true, even if he didn't want to admit it. He scowled, wondering if his conscience might shut up if he ignored it for long enough; but the man in the red cummerbund didn't seem to have that kind of time. Straightening his slightly-too-large waiter's tuxedo, and trying to convince himself that he looked passably like James Bond, he stepped out of the doorway and crossed over to the struggling tangle of arms lying flat against the far wall.

"Excuse me." There was no answer, so he cleared his throat and tapped the nearest bodyguard on the shoulder. "Excuse me."

"What the-?" The bodyguard spun around, his gun barrel grazing Steele's cheek. He managed not to wince at this worrying proximity to the likelihood of getting parts of his head blown off, and instead smiled sweetly.

"Hello. I wonder if you could help me? I seem to be lost."

"This area is out of bounds, and you know it." The second bodyguard gestured with his gun back towards the doorway. "Get out of here, Steele."

"Oh, gladly. Gladly." Steele's smile cranked itself up a notch or two. "There's just one thing first..."

"Yes?" The first bodyguard loomed even closer, if that were possible, and glared ferociously. Steele's eyes strayed towards the man in the cummerbund, and he took a deep breath and swallowed hard.

"Yes." His smiled hovered, wavering uncertainly. "You don't have the guts to shoot that man. I could see it the moment I first started watching you. You don't have the guts to make me go back inside, either. You know that Mr Walken needs me. You know that I'm important around here. And you are just a bodyguard." There was a silence, and he tried not to shiver, wondering if everybody in the alleyway could hear his heart beating or if it was only audible to him. "I said--"

"I heard you." The bodyguard reached out, taking him by the arm, pushing him with sudden force up against the opposite wall. It was only a few short feet away, but the flight seemed to last hours. A large, broad face loomed close to Steele's. "And I'm going to deal with you. In just a moment."

"Absolutely. I understand entirely, and I sympathise." Steele nodded hard. "But listen old chap, if we could just--"

"Shut up." The bodyguard, holding him still, glanced back towards his associate. "Hurry up and finish off that other--" He broke off. His partner was lying full length on the ground, dead to the world, his limbs sprawled and spread out around him like a collection of broken spaghetti. The man in the red cummerbund stood over him, gun in hand, his face set in an expression of hard determination.

"Drop the gun," he said firmly. "And let Mr Steele go."

"How did you--" The bodyguard sighed, his shoulders slumping slightly. Shaking his head in what might have been frustration or just plain embarrassment, he dropped his gun on the ground and released his squirming prisoner. Steele made a great show of smoothing out the creases from his jacket.

"Thankyou." He glanced back towards the casino door, and raised his eyebrows. "Might I suggest a hasty departure? Usually I hate to run away this early in the morning, but this whole place is crawling with unpleasant men with big guns."

"Lead on." The man in the red cummerbund stepped aside to let Steele take the lead, then glared one final time at the one still conscious bodyguard. "And don't try coming after us." He got no response, whether in English or in German, and after hesitating a moment for dramatic effect, he turned about and raced off after his saviour.


"It's good to get the chance to speak with you, Mr Steele." Finally stopping for breath, the man in the red cummerbund stretched out his hand in greeting. "The name's Cooper."

"You know who I am?" Steele groaned. "Don't tell me. You're CIA."

"No. Your CIA colleagues don't know of my presence in the country. I'd prefer to keep it that way."

"FBI then." Steele could practically feel the net closing in around him. He had been pursued by the FBI once too often. One of these days somebody from that organisation was going to make the truth known about Remington Steele, he was sure of it.

"NSA." Cooper flashed an ID card. "Needless to say, Cooper isn't my real name."

"Perish the thought." Steele shook his head, exasperated. "You people do realise, don't you, that this is Germany? It's a foreign country. You don't have any right to be here."

"The American government likes to consider itself responsible for the welfare of West Germany. It's in our best interests to do so." Cooper frowned as though confronted by a traitor. "Walken and Heyer are useful operatives. They have dealings with a lot of organisations who manage to operate on both sides of the Wall. We find them invaluable, and I'm sure that you can see how, in the interests of national security, it's therefore absolutely vital that both men continue working freely. That's why I was sent here. I have to stop the CIA from arresting Heyer, and the FBI from arresting Walken. That means that I have to stop you, and your associate Miss Holt. I'm authorised to use any means necessary." He smiled. "But then, you know the procedure. You have quite a reputation amongst the secret services, Mr Steele. Your record as an agent for the CIA was exemplary."

"It was?" Confused, Steele shook his head. "But I-- Oh, never mind." He sighed. "Okay, let me get this straight. I was brought here by the CIA, because they couldn't be seen to arrest Heyer themselves. Now the FBI seem to have done the same thing to my... employee... Laura Holt, in order to arrest Walken. So what is it that you want?"

"I want you to make sure that neither man is arrested." Cooper was still holding the gun he had taken from the prone bodyguard, and he raised it casually now, so that it pointed at Steele almost as an afterthought. "Like I said, I'm authorised to use any means necessary."

"Wonderful." Steele looked nervously towards the gun. "So what's the next move?"

"A little talk with Heyer. He knows about me, and why I'm here, and he's prepared to help Walken stay operational if I'll help him to stay clear of the CIA."

"He is?" Steele decided that now was not the best time to mention a certain discussion he had overheard, involving Heyer helping the FBI take Walken down. "Okay. Lead on, old man. I'm all ears."

"I'd hoped you'd see things sensibly." Cooper gestured with his gun. "There should be a car waiting nearby. Just don't stray too far away." His eyes pointed to the gun, and Steele nodded. He didn't need telling twice.


Laura and Murphy were almost at the casino when they saw a large black car roll past. Although the windows were smoked, one of them was lowered slightly, and it was possible for the pair to see into the darkened interior of the long, expensive automobile. The smooth and composed figure of Remington Steele was easily discernible, seated in the back of the car, his eyes staring dolefully into the street. If he saw his two colleagues he gave no indication of it, and instead returned his attention to the man beside him. This second person was little more than a silhouette to Laura and Murphy, but they could see that he wore dark clothes, and that he appeared to be holding a gun.

"Wasn't that--"

"Yes." Laura dashed into the street, waving at the oncoming traffic. "What's German for 'follow that car'?"

"Are you kidding? Nobody's going to stop for us." Murphy dragged her out of the way just before a rather large goods vehicle ended her career forever. She smiled a little ruefully, and brushed herself off.

"I see what you mean. Thankyou."

"No sweat." They stood together on the kerb, watching the traffic move past. "Damn it. Don't they have taxis in this city?"

"If they do they're all somewhere else today." Her eyes scanned the streams of fast-moving cars. "Hang on. I think I spot something."

"What?" He tried to follow the line of her gaze, but could only see a small, somewhat decrepit Volkswagen. "What is it?"

"Take a look at the license plates on that car." She was already dashing back across the road, ignoring the likely dangers, and dodging cars, bicycles and lorries with equal abandon. Murphy was about to shout out to her to stand still before her luck ran out when a large lorry rushed between them, blocking her from his view. By the time he had managed to negotiate enough obstacles to be able to see her again, she was already climbing into the back of the Volkswagen. She waved to him to join her.

"Laura, what--" He broke off when he saw the two people in the front of the car. Both were young women, probably no older than their early twenties, and both were dressed in US Army uniform. He certainly couldn't fault their tailors, and it was with a sudden, rather imperative burst of self control that he managed to tear his eyes away from them. Laura was smiling at him, her eyes awash with enthusiasm.

"Follow that car!" She shouted urgently. Obligingly the driver started off down the road, peering out of the side window rather than the somewhat cracked windscreen in her attempts to spot the car which had just been haltingly described to her.

"My pleasure ma'am. I'm always glad to serve my country." She swerved rather alarmingly in her attempts to get a good view down a side street, and almost knocked a small boy off his bike. Her companion shouted an apology in fluent German. "I've never met a real live FBI agent before." Her eyes switched from the road to the rear view mirror, sizing up Murphy with appreciation. "Are you with the FBI as well?"

"No, er... lieutenant." He spied the marks of rank, and tried to stop his eyes from exploring further. "I'm CIA." To distract himself he flashed his wallet at the girls, who both turned from the view ahead in order to look. There was little to look at. "His 'CIA identification' consisted of his license as a Private Investigator, flipped so fast that he hoped nobody would notice. It had worked before, in all manner of situations.

"Very nice." He wasn't sure whether it was his supposed status or his ID card that the second girl was referring to, but he smiled back, and tried to ignore Laura's amusement. He was saved by a shriek from the driver.

"Over there! Is that it?" Up ahead, at a traffic junction, was a long, black car. Laura leaned forward, having trouble seeing much detail through the thick grime on the glass.

"I think so." The car started off again almost immediately, as though having heard her voice. "Hurry up. We can't let them get away."

"What have they done?" The driver - Lieutenant Geddes, Murphy could see now, managing to catch a glimpse of her nameplate as she swivelled dangerously once again in her seat - sounded as though she was getting carried away by the whole situation. She would be dining out on this story for months back in barracks, he guessed.

"They're traitors," he told her, at the same time that Laura announced they were terrorists. Both detectives hesitated.

"They're traitors against our government, now working as terrorists," covered Laura. "One of our men is with them. We think he's working undercover, but he may have been kidnapped."

"Wow." The girl in the passenger seat glanced back at them with her eyes shining. Her nameplate read 'Lieutenant Boden', Murphy was quick to notice. Just his luck if both were married to generals. "Is he an important operative?"

"No." Murphy's reply was heartfelt. "Actually he's just the office boy, but we needed somebody who looked the part for this job."

"He's showing a remarkable aptitude," Laura couldn't help injecting. Murphy glared at her.

"Yeah; for a guy whose destiny in life is to alphabetise accounts."

"They're slowing." Lieutenant Geddes broke into their joke confrontation without seeming to realise that she was interrupting anything. "It looks like they're heading for that building over there."

"Which building over where?" Laura rolled down her window and peered out. The black car was disappearing into the garage of a large, impressive glass office block that she knew well. Her FBI contact who had met her on her arrival in Germany had shown it to her. "That place belongs to Curtis Heyer."

"Then who's Steele with?" Murphy was perplexed. "Heyer himself?"

"He told me he had a meeting today. It could have been with Steele I suppose." She leaned forward, shaking Geddes by one hand and Boden by the other. "Thankyou, lieutenants. Both of you. Your country appreciates your assistance."

"Hey, you can't leave us out of it now." Jerking the Volkswagen to a bumpy halt on the grass verge, Geddes clambered out. "We want to help."

"It could be dangerous." Laura glanced over at Murphy for support, but he took each of the women by an arm, and smiled in blissful readiness.

"I say let's go get 'em."

"You would." She rolled her eyes. "Okay everybody. Stay close." She smirked. "Not that I need tell you to do that."

"Are these people armed? We have weapons in the car." Boden sounded childishly eager, but Laura shook her head.

"No guns. We don't like to operate that way." She gestured for them to keep low, and then broke into a run, heading for the cover of the nearest wall. She was used to doing such things in out of the way places and desolate warehouses, not in the middle of a crowded city street in broad daylight - but she quashed her natural self-consciousness and tried to keep her mind on the job. A second later Murphy arrived beside her.

"Are you sure we don't want those guns?" he asked her. She nodded.

"I don't want any bullets flying around unless they're unavoidable. We don't know who we're dealing with."

"Fair enough." He saw a likely looking window, and broke away from her to run over and check it out. It opened easily, and he climbed inside without bothering to wait and see if Laura was following. Seconds later she was peering in at him.

"Show off."

"I know." He hauled her in, leaving the two lieutenants to manage for themselves. For them this all appeared to be an exercise brought to life. "This is some kind of a conference centre, I'd say. Where do we head?"

"The top floor of course." She led the way to the nearest door, peering out into the corridor beyond. "I don't see any guards, or any security cameras, but keep your eyes peeled anyway."

"Right with you." Murphy leaned over her shoulder, trying to get a good view of the layout, and felt Geddes and Boden similarly leaning over him to see out as well. "I hope Steele knows what he's doing."

"Steele always knows what he's doing. I just wish I knew what he was doing." Laura pointed to the stairwell. "Lieutenant Geddes, Lieutenant Boden, you take the stairs. Agent Murphy and I will take the elevator, and we'll play it by ear at the top, okay?"

"Yes ma'am." Geddes already seemed to be straining at the leash. "Ready when you are."

"Then let's go." Laura glanced up at Murphy. "When we get back to the States..."

"Yeah?" He couldn't help wondering if she was going to say something romantic, and then wondered what he would do if she did. She smiled.

"Remind me to buy you a tux that fits."


"So run this by me again." Seated on the floor of the office of the Remington Steele Detective Agency, where he felt as though he had been seated for much of his adult life, the photographer fixed Bernice with a vaguely confused stare. "Remington Steele isn't really a good guy?"

"No." She played with the camera, lying in pieces all over the floor just in front of her. The photographer - Marvin, she seemed to recall him introducing himself as, but whether that was his first or last name she could no longer remember - had been trying to teach her to disassemble it and put it back together again. That had been about six hours ago, when boredom had really begun to sink in. Now, three or four reassembles later, neither of them could remember which piece went where, and the whole camera was nothing more than a pile of pointless junk. "Actually he's a double agent. That English accent - you've noticed how fake it is, right? Well it's not really an English accent at all. He's a Russian, who defected here back in '76. We found out last year that he's still working for the Soviet Union."

"Shouldn't we... I don't know. Jump him or something? Grab his gun and make a run for it?" Marvin didn't sound especially enthusiastic about this manoeuvre, and Bernice shook her head.

"Can't. Her Highness might get hurt."

"Her Highness?" Marvin's eyebrows vanished into his hairline, which was higher than most. Bernice nodded towards the still shivering heiress, who was standing by the window, intermittently trying to cling to the wildly pacing faux Steele.

"She's Princess Jennifer, of Monaco."

"You're kidding? I never even knew there was a Princess Jennifer."

"You wouldn't. It's classified. She's a triple agent, and the crying is all an act." Bernice tipped over a few of the camera shards, wishing that she was wherever Laura was. She didn't know where that was, and she didn't know why Laura was there, but she was sick of watching an increasingly agitated pretend Remington Steele pace up and down the offices. Even more, she was sick of being stuck in the offices with him, and with a gibbering wreck of a formerly prospective client and a hopelessly gullible photographer. "She works for the Russians and the Chinese as well as for the Americans. There's even word that she might be working for the FBI."

"No kidding." Marvin whistled through his teeth. "And I thought you were just a secretary."

"Did you really." She managed to keep the cold tone from her voice. "I'll have you know that I'm head of CIA operations in this city. Why I was once--" She broke off as the phone on the desk burst into shrill, insistent life. The fake Steele made a grab for it, snatching the receiver up to his ear with almost pitiful desperation.

"Hello?" His accent was gone again, and this time he made no attempt to retrieve it. "Yes? You what? Well I guess that's that then." He was silent for a second, then slammed the receiver back into its cradle, and glared poisonously at Bernice.

"Something wrong?" She wondered if she had time to make a dash for the door before he tried shooting her, but instead of getting angry he sat down at the desk.

"That was my boss. Steele seems to be working with the opposition now, and Miss Holt is known to be working with the other opposition. Nobody is sure who Murphy Michaels is working for. The order has gone out to kill them all." He shrugged. "You lot might as well go home."

"Kill them?" Bernice jumped to her feet. "But why? What on Earth is going on?"

"Nothing." He shrugged at her, then grabbed his coat and headed for the door. "Absolutely nothing at all."

"How can you say that?" She grabbed hold of his arm, but found Marvin gently detaching her.

"Don't argue with it," he told her firmly, and looked towards the false Steele with a new interest. "You're CIA, aren't you."

"Yes." He held out his ID. "Agent Black. Not that that's my real name of course. Haven't I seen you somewhere before?"

"Agent White, FBI." White smiled and flipped out his own ID. "Not that that's my real name of course." He nodded towards the door. "Fancy a drink?"

"Yeah, I'd like that." Black nodded a final farewell to Bernice. "Good day."

"You can't leave like this." She wondered if getting hysterical might have an effect, but dismissed the thought. "You have to tell me where Laura and the others are."

"Laura Holt, Murphy Michaels and Remington Steele had been working in their offices all day." Agent White's shoulders stiffened as he reeled off what sounded like a prepared statement. "Sadly they were killed instantly when their car overturned as they set out to meet with an informant." He flashed her a smile. "You can keep the camera. So long." With that he was gone. Bernice slumped against the wall.

"Does this mean Mr Steele isn't interested in my case?" The heiress was staring after the departing pair with a dejected look on her face. Bernice glared at her.

"You can keep the camera," she told her, in as near to White's tone of voice as she could manage. With that she turned about and strode from the office. She had a sudden desire for some very messy revenge.


Curtis Heyer leaned back in his seat, linked his fingers behind his head, and glared up at Remington Steele.

"I thought you were in LA." His expression was very serious, a not inconsiderable feat thanks to the almost pantomimic quality of his fashion accessories. "If I'd known you were here in Germany, I'd have had you killed."

"Well, no hard feelings, I'm sure." Steele smiled nervously. "I'm on your side now."

"My side," Agent Cooper interjected firmly. Both his companions favoured him with innocent smiles, and Heyer inclined his head in a respectful nod.

"Naturally, Mr Cooper. Your side. Just because I prefer the deal offered to me by the FBI doesn't mean that I won't bow to your greater authority."

"And it is a great authority, Curtis." Cooper's eyes had narrowed perceptibly. "Don't forget that."

"Gentlemen, gentlemen." Clapping his hands together, Steele beamed at them both. "Why don't we get down to business. Perhaps if I could chair this little meeting, we'll get things accomplished so much quicker?" There were no objections, so he smiled a little more widely, ushered Cooper into a chair, and folded his arms decisively across his chest. "The way I see it we have two conflicting positions here. Agent Cooper and his team are anxious to see to it that you, Mr Heyer, and your illustrious rival Mr Walken, stay out of prison - whilst you would rather that Mr Walken was locked up for good."

"That prospect does have certain attractions, yes." Heyer smiled unpleasantly. "But I've told you that I'm on Cooper's side. I have no desire to get on the wrong side of the NSA."

"Naturally." Steele was still all smiles. "And of course when you told my associate Laura Holt that you would be happy to help her and her FBI employers destroy Walken tonight, that was all just a misunderstanding, yes?"

"What?" All of a sudden Cooper was on his feet again. "Is this some kind of a joke, Steele?"

"Laura Holt is your associate?" Heyer shook his head. "Damn it. I should have known she was too good to be true. It's just as well I took precautions."

"Precautions?" Now it was Steele's turn to sound cold. "What precautions?"

"And what is all of this?" Cooper didn't seem sure whether to turn his anger first onto Steele or onto Heyer. "The FBI are raiding Walken tonight? They don't have the authority. They don't have the evidence."

"No, they don't." Steele sounded as though he were only half concentrating, the rest of his mind dealing with Heyer's talk of precautions. "Laura was lying. The FBI don't know anything about the raid. Heyer's men are going in alone, so if you've taken precautions, Curtis, you'd better stop them. Now."

"The FBI aren't in on this?" A huge smile crossed Heyer's face. "Well I'm sorry, Steele, but it's too late to stop things now. See, I was a little worried about the whole thing, so I figured I'd pull out all the stops myself. My men are going up against Walken today. Any minute now in fact." Almost lazily he stretched out a hand, pulling a gun from some hidden compartment in his desk before either Steele or Cooper had had time to react. He pointed it at them both, leaning back in his chair with an expression of absolute satisfaction. "This really couldn't be better. My idea was to make sure that there was nothing but pieces for the FBI to mop up this evening. Instead I get to deal with it all now, by myself. I never had the strength to go up against him in the past, but thanks to the involvement of you lot, with all your secret organisations and your suits and dark glasses, nobody knows who's working for who anymore. I can take Walken's whole organisation apart, and nobody will ever be able to tell who was responsible."

"Apart from the entire American Security Network, a handful of employees on both sides of your organisation... and us." It was Laura's voice and it came from the door, where she stood leaning against the frame with her arms folded. "Hello Curtis."

"Miss Holt." Heyer acknowledged her with a nod. "It's good to see you again. I'm glad that you turned up at this precise moment. You get to watch me kill your associate, Mr Steele. Right before I kill you too."

"But not before I kill you." Murphy, standing behind Laura, had the German crime kingpin fixed firmly in the sights of the extendable pointing stick that he had picked up in one of the conference rooms he had passed on his way to the office. It was black and shiny, and he was fairly sure that it looked like a rifle - well, from some angles, anyway, and if you didn't look too hard. He smiled. "Fancy taking your chances, Curtis? I'm a great shot, even if I do say so myself. I never miss." He shifted the 'weapon' slightly in his grip. "Drop the gun, or I'll drop you."

"You won't get away with this. The building is full of my men." Slowly Heyer lowered the gun onto the tabletop. "You will be stopped before you get twenty feet away from this office."

"Maybe." Murphy jerked his head at Steele. "Mr Steele? Would you be so kind as to retrieve Mr Heyer's weapon? I should hate to see it fall into the wrong hands."

"What? Oh." Steele picked it up, spinning it around his fingers like a cowboy in an old Western. Laura hurried forward, grabbed it from his indignant hands, and levelled it at Heyer. Murphy breathed a sigh of relief.

"Thanks. I didn't think I was going to fool anybody for much longer." He folded up the pointer and tossed it onto Heyer's desk. Steele grinned.

"Very good. I'm impressed, Murphy."

"Thanks." Murphy sounded very dry, Steele's admiration not being his most sought-after thing. Steele's grin grew wider.

"Some of my talents must be rubbing off." Murphy growled at him, and he gave a little laugh. "Well something must be rubbing off, Murph. 'Drop it or I'll drop you'? Worthy of Philip Marlowe, I'd say. Wouldn't you Laura?"

"Huh." She couldn't help smiling at Murphy's expression. "It's good to see you again, Mr Steele. I'm glad to see that you're still in one piece."

"Oh always, Laura. Always." Now that he had 'his' team around him once more, Steele was sliding easily back into his rôle as leader of the agency. He had taken on an air of comfortable benevolence, like a landlord graciously looking after his tenants. "You're looking well. I'm impressed at the way that you've handled things without my guidance these last few days. Remind me to write a commendation when we get back to the office - you too Murphy. I rather think that you're both in for a raise."

"Thankyou sir." Laura tried to keep the frustration from her voice. "And now if I might suggest a hasty withdrawal? We still have things to--" She was cut short by the unmistakable sound of gunfire. "What the-?"

"My men, coming to get you." Heyer smiled smugly. Cooper, so far stunned into silence, shook his head.

"More likely to be my men, coming to get you." He turned his glare onto Steele. "And you."

Laura looked towards Murphy, her eyes asking him obvious questions. He shook his head. "It's not orderly fire. I wouldn't say it's anything to do with the security services." He frowned at Cooper. "Which are you, anyway. CIA or FBI?"

Cooper glared at him. "NSA. And you're acting in direct contravention of--"

"Nobody gives a damn, Cooper. My men are on their way, and the best thing any of you can do is to surrender now. I might not kill you all." Heyer was still grinning like a Cheshire Cat. "I probably will, mind."

"Ideas, people." Abandoning her pretence at being an underling, Laura let instinct take over as she returned to the command of her little band. Murphy went swiftly to one of the windows.

"There are a lot of cars down there. I don't think we're dealing with Heyer's men."

"Walken?" Laura glared at Steele. "Of course. Somebody told him about the plan to raid his place tonight."

"Walken's here?" Steele also crossed to the window. "That means there'll be nobody defending his place. He's expecting Heyer tonight, so he's trying to put in a pre-emptive strike - but Heyer's men are already on their way to his casino. They're planning to pre-empt the FBI."

"Oh great." Murphy sat down on the windowsill, his back to the cold glass. "Full-scale warfare on the streets of West Berlin. I'm sure that the locals are going to be so grateful for all the help we've given them."

"It's not our fault, Murph. This has been waiting to happen." Laura glared daggers at Cooper. "Especially with so many contradictory groups trying to out-do each other in their control of the situation."

"We have to get out of here." All of the fight seemed to have gone out of Cooper, and the glare had passed from his eyes. "Walken's men will kill us all. Obviously he's no longer interested in my deal, and he doesn't seem to need your input anymore, either."

"He's got a point, Laura." Steele was looking about. "I don't suppose there'd be some nice secret passage hidden somewhere in here, would there? A stylish oaken panel leading to a flight of dusty steps, and a tunnel filled with cobwebs and the bones of--" He fell silent at a look from Laura. Heyer shook his head.

"No secret passages. Don't worry, my men with deal with Walken's people, and still have ammunition left for the four of you."

"But your men are all out taking care of Walken's casino, remember?" Laura's words had a noticeable effect on the crime leader, who seemed not to have considered this himself. He blanched.

"We have to get out of here."

"You don't say." His tone ironic, Murphy stood up. "We do still have two aces up our sleeve. Should I go look for them?"

"Yeah, but be careful Murph. Chances are they heard something when they were on their way up here. They're probably holed up on one of the lower levels."

"No sweat." Murphy hurried from the room. Steele looked questioningly at Laura, but she gave him no explanation.

"We're not going to just wait here, are we?" Now that his façade of strength and confidence had passed, Heyer seemed little more than a quivering wreck. "That would be suicide."

"No." Laura seemed to come to a sudden decision. "We're going to make for the roof. It'll be easier to defend."

"And there might even be a helicopter." Steele immediately perked up at this possibility. The idea of leaping into a chopper and making a dramatic escape through the skies of Berlin had a certain glamour and appeal. "We could even wait for Murphy, if you really want to."

"And you can actually fly a helicopter can you?" Laura ushered everybody forward. "Let's not plan too far ahead. We'll get up to the roof and worry about what to do next when we're up there."

"I'm sorry. But I really can't let you do that." Walken's voice was easily recognisable to Steele even before the older man had sauntered into the room. Laura saw the change of expression on the face of her 'employer' and raised her 'borrowed' gun.

"I wouldn't do that." With a notable grace and confident ease, Leon Walken strolled into the room. Behind him came a handful of his men, one of them holding a gun to Murphy's head. The red-haired American shot Laura a rueful look.

"Sorry Laura."

"Don't worry about it." She flashed him a consoling smile, but it was hard to be too cheerful. Rather than risk further trouble she lowered her weapon. "What now? It's Mr Walken, I believe?"

"And you must be the delightful Laura Holt." Walken whistled. "If I'd known what you were like, Miss Holt, I'd have had you brought out to join me instead of Mr Steele here. He has his uses, but I like the aesthetics much more than the practicalities in life."

"A man after my own heart." She smiled at him. "So what happens next?"

"Ah well. Sadly, it seems that I shall have to kill you." Her returned her smile. "But regretfully, you understand."

"Naturally." She shrugged. "And I guess there'd be no point in saying 'Look out! Behind you'!"

"Very little point." His smile became consoling and kind. "But I appreciate the gesture."

"One must keep up appearances." She looked towards Steele. "Right, Mr Steele?"

"Right Laura. Absolutely." He grinned broadly. "And if I were to add 'There are two crack commandos heavily armed with assault rifles standing no more than ten yards from us right now' - that wouldn't carry much authority, either would it."

"Which would be a shame." Lieutenant Geddes, who was standing no more than ten yards away, with an assault rifle levelled at Walken's back, clicked off the safety with a loud and dramatic snap. "Because I love a good entrance."

"What?" Walken spun about, his men doing likewise, just as Lieutenant Boden let off her first volley. Gunfire ate up the carpet, spewing chunks of expensive red shag into the air. The man holding Murphy let go of him in shock, and the American scurried out of reach. Cooper dived behind Heyer's desk, and Heyer himself made a grab for one of the desk drawers, opening it to reveal a small, squat handgun. Both men snatched for it at once, wrestling furiously for control of the weapon as the two lieutenants in the doorway brought the gang of invaders to a flustered kind of order. Laura breathed a sigh of relief.

"I was beginning to think you two weren't coming to join the party."

"Us?" Geddes flashed her a triumphant grin. "We were dealing with a few stragglers. They were kind enough to donate their weaponry."

"Yeah, and these are nice." Boden held up her rifle in evident appreciation. "These are better than anything the army gives us."

"Then maybe you'd better keep them." Laura began collecting up the fallen guns, happy to leave Cooper and Heyer struggling together in a heap at the far side of the room. "I'll have the office send our thanks to your CO."

"Thanks." Geddes frowned. "But don't we need a debriefing?"

"I'm not sure there's any need for that." Laura dumped the pile of guns into Murphy's waiting arms. Steele stepped forward, straightening the ever-immaculate tuxedo.

"Laura, Laura, Laura." Suddenly the Irish inflection was back in his voice, and Laura's heart swelled in a surprising gladness to hear it again. If she could have glowered at her own heart, she would have done so in response to this traitorous act, but instead she raised her eyebrows to wait for what he had to say this time. "If these delightful ladies want a debriefing, I really think we should oblige." He offered them both a broad smile. "Ladies, my name is Remington Steele - and I think that the three of us should discuss this in depth. Perhaps over a bottle of champagne, a few lighted candles, a poetic sunset over the rooftops of Berlin? Maybe even a little music, to help the, er... exchange of information."

Laura rolled her eyes. There were times when there was a lot to be said for impostors.


It was quiet in the office without the false Steele getting in the way all of the time. Laura was glad to have the real thing back, even though she would never have told him as much. Murphy, who had never known the delights of the impostor, was rather of the opinion that they should have asked him to stay, and contrived to leave the genuine article - or nearly genuine, which was as close as you got with Steele - back in Germany. He had even offered to throw the con-man out of the aeroplane on the way back to the States - with or without a parachute, the choice had been Laura's. She had declined the offer on the grounds that a Steele could be a useful thing to have around on occasions - but she was beginning to revise her opinion now. Ever since their return from Germany Steele had been stalking about in a black suit, wearing sunglasses so dark that he could barely see through them, and demanding secret passwords from anybody he encountered in the front office. The clients, fortunately, seemed faintly amused by it all - or maybe bemused was a better word. Either way nobody had complained. Yet.

The situation in Germany had easily been resolved. Following the apprehension of both Heyer and Walken and most of the latter's men at Heyer's offices, the police had picked up most of Heyer's men at Walken's casino. They certainly had evidence enough to charge them with a number of offences, and it seemed likely that they would get more from an anonymous source in the American military. The Steele Agency had heard nothing more from either the FBI or the CIA, and were certainly not expecting to hear from the NSA. All in all things had gone very quiet, and even the extremely upset heiress seemed now to be suitably placated. Steele had talked to her soon after his return, and Murphy was already on the case for her, trying to find her missing brother. The only loose end appeared to Bernice, who was still acting as though she had been intentionally left out of the whole affair. She seemed put out, and had not even bothered to shout at Steele for his continued habit of referring to her as 'Miss Wolf'.

It was about a week after the return from Germany that a man in a dark suit strolled into Steele's office early one afternoon, just as he and Laura were trying not to argue over the list of company expenditures. Bernice hovered in the doorway.

"Sorry," she said, not really sounding as though she meant it. "He got past me."

"Never mind." Laura stepped away from the desk, looking the man up and down appraisingly. "Need I ask?"

"Agent Forbes, ma'am. Not that that's--"

"Your real name. We know." She frowned. "FBI or CIA? Or do I not want to know?"

"FBI, ma'am, although I am also here on behalf of the CIA." His shoulders stiffened, and he waited until Bernice had withdrawn before he spoke further. "It's a delicate matter. Perhaps Mr Steele and I could discuss--"

"I have no secrets from my staff, Agent Forbes." Steele leaned back in his chair, putting on his best authoritative expression. "Anything that you want to say to me, you can also say to Miss Holt."

"Yes sir. Of course." Forbes took a deep breath. "It's, er... that is, I've..." He sighed. "I've come to ask for our agents back."

"Your..." Laura stared at him incredulously. "Your agents?"

"Yes ma'am." Forbes shifted uncomfortably. "Agent Black of the CIA, and Agent White of the FBI - not that those are their real names of course - both went missing in these offices about a week ago. We'd very much like to have them back."

"I have no idea where they are." Laura looked towards Steele. "Do you know anything about this, Mr Steele?"

"Nothing at all." He sounded genuinely perplexed, and on this occasion at least she was inclined to believe in his innocence. "Can you tell us what they looked like?"

"Agent Black was... masquerading as you sir." Forbes looked ever more uncomfortable. "Are you sure you don't know where they are?" Quite suddenly he looked very young, and very hot under the collar. "We would appreciate their safe return."

"I tell you what, Agent Forbes." Laura clapped him on the back and ushered him towards the door. He went, albeit unwillingly. "We'll keep looking, and if we, er, find them, we'll send them home." She stifled a smile. "Goodbye."

"Oh." He sounded unhappy. "Goodbye ma'am. Sir." The door swung closed behind him. Laura shook her head.

"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" she asked Steele. He shrugged.

"I can't think of anything else, can you?"

"No. Even if it does sound a little unlikely." She opened the door again, waiting until she was sure that Forbes was gone before she called out to Bernice. The secretary-cum-general assistant glanced up. "Could we speak to you for a moment, Bernice?"

"Of course." Bernice looked vaguely smug, and crossed quickly to enter the office. The door swung shut again behind her. "What is it?"

"You wouldn't happen to know anything about a couple of agents, would you?" Laura tried not to sound too accusing, but Bernice didn't seem to mind the obvious assertion. She smiled.

"Agents Black and White? Agents We're-So-Clever-And-You-Can't-Touch-Us-And-We're-Going-To-Murder-Your-Friends? Yeah, I remember them."

"And do you happen to know where they are?" Steele asked her. She folded her arms, looking defiant.

"Not at this precise moment, no."

"Bernice..." Laura put just enough authority into her voice to make Bernice look vaguely repentant. She sighed.

"Okay. So I might have called in a few favours from building security. And there's this old boyfriend of mine who works for an independent flight charter company, and he's always prepared to do anything for me... and I know this guy who owns an oyster farm in the South Pacific..." Her voice trailed off. "They're kind of isolated, and there aren't any phones there. The supply plane is due in about a week, and I guess they'll be able to get home then." She seemed to be battling with her conscience about something, and her conscience seemed to be winning. "I could always get my old boyfriend to send another plane out there today. They could be home by this time tomorrow. That's if you wanted."

"I don't think we need to bother your friend." Steele leant back in his chair and picked up his newspaper. Quite how he had managed it, Laura had no idea, but it was that morning's edition of The Times. He cleared his throat and shook out the paper. "Carry on, Miss Wolf."

"Yes Mr Steele." She smiled at the upraised newspaper and left the room. Laura scowled.

"There are times when I think that the staff in this office are getting too big for their boots."

"The staff apologises." Steele glanced up at her over the top of his paper. "Now are you going to go and congratulate her, or shall I?"

"I'll go." She smiled at him. "And if I take her out to lunch to celebrate, will you be able to handle the office on your own?"

"Laura, Laura, Laura." He lowered the paper with a loud rustle, and contrived to look hurt. "Am I, or am I not, Remington Steele - investigator extraordinaire?"

"Yeah." She smiled fondly at him, then turned away before the moment could turn into something she wasn't ready for - yet. "Yeah. I guess you are."