"You seen the news?" Striding into Laura Holt's office with a newspaper in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other, Murphy Michaels did not even bother to glance at the third figure present in the room. Laura frowned.

"What news? I haven't seen the TV all day."

"This." He threw the paper onto her desk, and glared daggers at the third figure as he attempted to lean over to secure the paper first. Laura picked it up.

"James Hanbrook killed in car smash." She glanced up after reading the headline, not bothering to look at any more of the story. "Hanbrook is dead?"

"Looks like it. His car was a wreck, and it went up in a ball of flame - but apparently the body they found couldn't have belonged to anyone else. Same age, same height, same weight; plus the metal plate in the left leg." He shrugged. "It must have been him."

"It must." She sighed, and threw the paper down onto the desk, leaning back in her chair to stare at Murphy in deep contemplation. He stared back at her, partly in a state of the same contemplation, and partly just because he enjoyed the view. The third person stared at them both.

"Might one inquire who James Hanbrook is?" he asked, his blue eyes widened in polite curiosity. Laura looked across at him.

"Your latest client," she said briskly, although Murphy looked vaguely annoyed with her for having answered the question. "He hired you to find out who was trying to kill him."

"Ah." Steepling his fingers, the distinguished figure of Remington Steele nodded thoughtfully. "In that case I don't seem to have done a very good job, do I."

"On the contrary." Laura looked faintly rattled. "You did an excellent job. You found out that a business rival had hired a hitman, and you had the rival and the hitman dealt with. You couldn't make the court appearance yesterday though. I think you were out of the country on business."

"He was visiting relatives in London," Murphy corrected her, and she nodded.

"Yes, that's right."

"Yesterday?" Steele looked confused. "I was here all day yesterday, fielding calls from your Mr Honnicutt about some surveillance operation I supposedly did for him about eighteen months ago. Or didn't do, as the case may be."

"As the case was." Laura had no idea where the flamboyant 'head' of the Remington Steele detective agency had been eighteen months previously, but it certainly had been nowhere near Loyd Honnicutt or his surveillance operation. At least, she didn't think it had. In all honesty she had no real way of knowing. "We couldn't exactly tell them that the real reason Mr Steele wasn't available to give evidence was because he knew nothing about the case, hadn't done any work on it, and wouldn't know the client from the judge."

"Or that Mr Steele doesn't really exist in the first place." Murphy sat down on the corner of the desk, determined to steer the conversation back towards James Hanbrook. "What do you want to do about this Laura? The accident investigation people are saying there was nobody else involved, and that it's pretty open and shut. No foul play."

"They're sure of that?" Surprised, she picked up the newspaper again, and this time read the story more thoroughly. "It does seem pretty straightforward."

"I still don't understand why I've never heard this man's name before." Looking put out, Remington Steele leaned over to read the story alongside Laura. "I am the head of the agency."

"No, you're the agency's pet pain in the neck." Murphy smiled at the scowl his jibe received in reply. "We don't tell you what we're getting up to, and in return we don't want to hear what you're getting up to. It's a fair swap."

"Not at all. You get up to such interesting things." Steele smiled his best and most polished smile at Laura Holt, the real head of the Remington Steele Detective Agency. "So do we investigate the car crash?"

"We'll check things out, yes. Follow up the autopsy, look into the will, that sort of thing. Other than that I don't see a lot that we can do." She handed him the newspaper. "Murphy, could you handle the autopsy? That'll give me a chance to check up on Hanbrook's lawyers, see if I can get hold of a copy of his will. I want to see who benefits from his death."

"Probably a whole lot of people. He was one rich guy." Murphy stood up, all business again. "I'll get right on it." His steady, honest eyes turned themselves towards Steele, who was, in contrast, neither steady nor honest. "What about...?"

"Thanks Murphy," Steele jumped to his feet, newspaper tucked under one arm, "but autopsies have never been my thing. I'll just tag along with Laura."

"You will not--" She broke off, aware that arguing was pointless. "I suppose you might be useful."

"Of course I will. I'm always useful. I live to assist you with your every endeavour, Miss Holt."

"Oh yeah?" She headed towards the door, her errant 'boss' in tow. "One of these days I'm going to hold you to that."


"Mr Steele!" The man who stepped forward to shake Steele's hand was in his early thirties, well-dressed and good looking, and possessed of the sort of physique that suggested many outdoor pursuits. Steele disliked him immediately.

"Good morning." He returned the man's warm smile of welcome. "This is my associate, Miss Laura Holt."

"Miss Holt." Their latest acquaintance held Laura's hand for a beat longer than was necessary, and Steele did not see Laura objecting. There was a spark between the two of them that did not go unnoticed to the illustrious 'Mr Steele'; and it made him glower. He covered easily.

"And you are?"

"Oh! Sorry, I forgot that bit." He smiled sheepishly, and Laura grinned. "My name is Nigel Collington, and I'm Mr Hanbrook's lawyer. In charge of his personal effects, all that kind of thing. He and my father were business partners in the old days, and our families go back a long way."

"In that case you have our condolences." Laura was still beaming at the man, and he was quick to reciprocate. Steele managed to avoid rolling his eyes.

"Thankyou." Collington averted his eyes, looking sorrowful. "Still, they say it was quick. And given the death you saved him from, Mr Steele, I suppose we should be grateful for such small mercies. I really must congratulate you on a job well done. Surprised to see you here though. I thought you were in London visiting relatives?"

"I was." Steele shared a quick, mutual glare with Laura. "But I came back. They weren't in."

"Oh." Collington frowned, then brought his smile back out. "Well I'm glad. It's good to get the chance to thank you personally. You did a wonderful job."

"Thankyou." Amused at Laura's silent fuming, Steele drew himself up to his full height, basking in the glory. "Although I think it's fair to say that Miss Holt here is at least in part responsible. She's new to the job of course, but I think we're going to see her go far. She might even come to own her own agency one day."

"I'll look out for it." Collington smiled warmly at Laura. "That's great praise from a man like Mr Steele, Miss Holt."

"Yes." She managed to swallow her irritation. "Thankyou Mr Steele. You're too kind."

"Not at all, Laura. Not at all. Credit where it's due and all that." He stepped up to Collington, taking him by the arm and leading him away towards the impressively large, leather-topped desk that bore such a neat, aesthetically arranged pile of case-files. "Now the thing is Nigel old chap, we're here to look at Mr Hanook's will. If that's okay."

"Hanbrook," Laura corrected, hurrying to catch up so that she could be sure of keeping an eye on her associate. Steele glanced down at her, distracted.

"What? Oh yes, sorry. Terrible with names. Anyway, as I was saying..."

"His will." Nigel rummaged through his neat pile of folders, disturbing them in a way that would no doubt have his cleaning lady in tears. "Here it is. Very straight forward. The money is split between his son and his daughter, both of whom are out of the country, with the remainder going to causes of significance to Mr Hanbrook. A local college, a political party he supported, that sort of thing. But it'll be tied up for a long time, I assume, if you intend to investigate his death?"

"We've no intention of causing any trouble. We'll go along with the official police record." Laura took the will before Steele could. "It already looks as though it was almost certainly an accident."

"Yes. Terrible shame." Nigel shrugged. "Still, these things happen." He rubbed his hands together. "And if you're not investigating the case, Mr Steele, Miss Holt and I are not going to be working together, so there are no worries about breaking the barriers of the professional working relationship." His smile grew. "So how about lunch, Miss Holt? There's rather a nice restaurant I know of, called The Soiree. Has a delightful menu."

"Oh." She was flattered, and it showed in her voice. "I'd--"

"Miss Holt has a lot of work to do," Steele said loudly. Collington looked disappointed, but Laura just glared.

"Actually I've finished my caseload for the day, and if anything else comes in, Murphy will cover." She beamed up at Steele. "Don't you think?"

"I suppose so." He eyed her sourly. "Don't stay out too late."

"Takes care of you, doesn't he?" observed Collington jokingly. Laura made a face, although it went unseen by her latest potential suitor.

"We take care of each other in the Remington Steele Detective Agency," she said, and glared daggers at the man himself. "Don't we, Mr Steele."

"We certainly do Laura." He sighed. "Okay. I'll see you back at the office."

"Thankyou." She watched him leave. "The Honnicutt file should be on top of the pile on your desk, Mr Steele. There are still one or two points that need working through. I know Loyd is anxious for your call."

"I'm sure he is." He didn't bother feigning enthusiasm. "Good afternoon, Miss Holt, Mr Collington."

"Good afternoon." Collington sounded cheery, Laura sounded smug. Steele turned his back on them both and headed off downstairs. There was something he didn't like about the warm and friendly Nigel. He just hoped that it wasn't jealousy clouding his judgement - because that would raise all kinds of issues that he definitely was not ready to address.


"How'd it go with the lawyer?" Murphy was standing in the outer office, chatting to Bernice Fox over a cup of coffee. Steele glared at them both.

"I don't trust the man. Eyes too close together. Not the dependable kind at all. Looks rather like Robert Helpmann in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang."

"He does?" Filled with visions of the long-nosed Child Catcher, Bernice's eyes widened. Steele frowned.

"Well, I suppose I might be exaggerating a little; but he's definitely not to be trusted. You mark my words."

"Takes one to know one." Murphy smirked into his coffee, yet again enjoying the reaction his sarcasm had inspired. "Where's Laura?"

"Lunch." Steele pronounced it like a sentence of doom. "With Nigel."


"Nigel Collington, of the close set eyes. Thin lips, you know. Very thin lips." Steele shook his head. "It'll end in disaster."

"I take it this Collington guy is Hanbrook's lawyer?" Still smirking, Murphy refilled his cup from the jug beside Bernice. Steele nodded. "Well, look on the bright side. She might be able to pick up some interesting bits of information."

"I'm not interested in what she might pick up. I'm interested in what Nigel is hoping to pick up." Steele sighed. "Ah well, duty calls and all that. I'm supposed to be chatting with Mr Honnicutt. Please see that I'm not disturbed, Miss Wolf."

"Of course." She didn't bother correcting him. She had more or less given up with that, although she still fumed at the use of the misnomer. As soon as Steele's door had shut behind him, she growled. Murphy laughed out loud.

"Think Laura would notice if he wasn't here when she gets back?"

Bernice paused. "Where were you thinking of putting him?"

"Oh I don't know. In the hold of a cargo ship bound for Siberia. Or better still the smelly hold of a fishing vessel, heading for Arctic waters."

"Would it be like the boat in Captains Courageous, where they'd work him like a dog to help pay for his passage?" She had perked up at the suggestion, and Murphy answered her grin with one of his own.

"Has potential, doesn't it."

"I'll check with the docks." She sighed, however, and made no move towards the telephone. "She would miss him though, wouldn't she."

"I'm afraid so." They both sighed again, Murphy the loudest - for he had the most reason to be sorry for Laura Holt's interest in the mysterious man now ensconced in Remington Steele's office. "But we can dream."

"Yeah." Bernice's grin came back out. "We can dream."


In his office Remington Steele was looking thoughtful. The telephone was in his hand, the slip of paper bearing Loyd Honnicutt's telephone number on the desk before him. He wasn't looking at it though, and in fact its very existence was the furthest thing from his mind. Instead he was thinking about Laura, and about the annoyingly good looking and physically perfect lawyer with whom she was having lunch. Steele wasn't sure quite why Collington was ringing so many alarm bells in his head, but for some reason those bells would not stop clanging. He thought back over the conversation he had had with the lawyer, but could not put his finger on any one thing - or at least nothing that he could honestly say was proper reasoning, and not just reluctant jealousy. What was it about the man that bothered him so? Could it really be just the fact that Laura had smiled at him? Flirted with him? Gone to lunch with him? He didn't want to admit that it was any of those things, but he couldn't deny that the obvious spark between the pair had irritated him immensely. Laura shouldn't be looking at other men. Granted he himself hadn't really given her much reason not to, but all the same... She had created him. They were a team. They were supposed to be together. Steele and Holt made special things happen - Steele, Holt and Collington had no such special chemistry. It simply wasn't the way things were meant to be.

"His name." Steele said the words aloud, listening to the way his distinctive accent spoke the thought. "His name. It doesn't fit." He didn't know why it didn't fit - it just didn't. He closed his eyes, thinking hard, using his remarkable eye for detail to recall every little object that he had seen in Collington's office. The towering walls, two of oak panelling, two made entirely of glass. The three oil paintings. The desk with its neatly arranged files. The leather top, scuffed in places with age and use, the colour faded by years of strong sunlight streaming through the glass. The small, rectangular mark at the front of the desk, where the colour was retained as if still new. Steele frowned. Collington had had his hand in his pocket when they had walked in, and he had snatched it out again as though anxious to shake hands - or as though anxious not to be discovered putting something into his pocket in the first place. Steele's eyes closed more tightly. A small, rectangular mark on the desk. The sort of shape, in the sort of place, that might be just right for a nameplate. A small sign, probably a metal plaque on a wooden base, like the ones on a thousand desks in a thousand offices. A sign that bore a name Nigel Collington had not wanted Steele and Laura to see. Steele's eyes snapped open.

"Got you." He smirked at the slip of paper on his desk, then screwed it up and tossed it into the wastepaper bin. "Time to find out who you really are, Nigel."


"This is a wonderful restaurant." Staring around at the beautiful paintings on the walls, Laura could not disguise her pleasure. Collington smiled.

"I'm glad you like it. I bought it about six months ago, when it was practically on its knees. I'm rather pleased with the way its fortunes have turned around."

"You own this place?" She whistled under her breath. "When I like a place I just leave a tip."

"I wanted to see if I could make a go of it." He shrugged. "It was going cheap - less than fifty thousand. I didn't even have to bother with a mortgage. Which is just as well, because now she's all mine, and I don't have to share her with anyone." He smiled. "Not that I wouldn't be willing to. If the right person came along."

"The right person would be very lucky." They shared a long, lingering smile, before Laura turned her attention back to her plate. "The food is incredible too."

"I'm glad you think so. The head chef is an old friend. We met at Princeton, but he was the only one of us to make it into an honest profession." He lifted his glass. "A toast. To chefs."

"To chefs." She lifted her own glass in answer to the toast. "Even the wine is wonderful."

"I have it brought over specially from France." He shrugged. "Well, you might as well do these things properly."

"Hear hear." She smiled. "I'm sorry. I thought you were just a lawyer. I never imagined..."

"Old family money, Miss Holt. Don't let it get to you." He shrugged. "Besides, you must be used to wealth. Your Mr Steele is no pauper, is he."

"He certainly isn't." She thought about the hard-earned money her company controlled, and the cheerful manner in which 'her Mr Steele' liked throwing it around. It wasn't that she didn't appreciate how pleasant it must be to go from penniless thief to millionaire playboy in the blink of an eye - it was just that she wished it was somebody else's funds he played with. She looked up into Nigel's deep brown eyes, seeing all of the things there that she had never seen in the eyes of Remington Steele. These were the eyes, she thought dreamily, of a man she could trust, depend upon, be sure of. A man who wouldn't let her down.

"Miss Holt..." He sounded unsure about something, and she tore her mind away from her reverie to look back into his eyes once again - in a more professional manner this time.


"You... you really are here to discuss Mr Hanbrook's death, aren't you."

"Here? Now? A-actually I thought we were here for pleasure?" She was surprised, wondering if she had really misinterpreted his intentions that much. He laughed.

"Yes, we're here for pleasure right now. What I mean is, your intentions are honourable. You see, there have been some... objectionable types hanging around of late. It seems that... that Mr Hanbrook knew some people who knew some people who..." He made a vague gesture in the air. "The sort of people he hired you to protect him from. I must confess I haven't exactly been straight with you."

"You haven't?" She couldn't imagine anyone with eyes that deep and steady ever doing anything even remotely duplicitous. "I don't understand."

"There have been some things going on within the firm... people doing things they shouldn't have been. There are certain things... certain business secrets... that have to be protected." He glanced up, and stared suddenly over Laura's shoulder. "Oh dear."

"What is it?" She glanced back, seeing the immaculate, tuxedoed figure of Remington Steele striding into the restaurant. He exchanged a few words with the waiter, who flushed a deep red, bowed very low, and then departed at speed. Laura groaned.

"What's he doing here?"

"I imagine he's here to talk to us." Nigel sighed. "He's good, your Mr Steele. I never expected him to find out so soon." He hesitated. "Laura, before he arrives, there's something I have to tell you. Something I've been meaning to say since we got here. You see I didn't tell the--"

"Miss Holt!" Arms stretched out in welcome, Remington Steele bellowed out the greeting whilst still several tables away. The other diners looked up, and Laura wished that she could hide under her napkin. Nigel forced a smile.

"Mr Steele. What an unexpected pleasure. Are you here with guests?"

"No no no." Steele put one hard hand on Nigel's shoulder. "I'm here to see you actually, Nigel old chap. Small issue I'd like to raise with you, if you'd be so kind."

"Mr Steele--" Laura began to rise to her feet, but Steele froze her with a look.

"Not now Laura. This is between the gentleman here and myself." His hand tightened its grip on Nigel's shoulder, and the lawyer winced. "Perhaps you have something to say on the matter, Mr Collington?"

"I... I don't know what you mean." The grip tightened again, and tears sprang to Nigel's eyes. "Ow!"

"Mr Steele." This time Laura did stand up. "I don't know what this is about, but I think we should deal with it outside, don't you? A quick word, if I may." The note of authority in her voice was strong, but fortunately Nigel was too preoccupied to notice the manner in which she appeared to be ordering her 'boss' around.

"Ask him his name." Steele had almost dragged Collington from his chair now. "Go on. Ask him."

"I already know his name." Laura remembered the things her lunch companion had been telling her before Steele's arrival, and she frowned suddenly. "Don't I?"

"Not exactly." His words twisted through pain, Nigel blinked up at her. "I... didn't exactly tell you the truth. I tried to explain."

"So what are you called?" She felt as though she didn't know quite how to feel about anything. He looked sheepish.

"Charles Evans. You can check it out with whoever you like. I said that Mr Hanbrook was an old friend of my father's - well the truth is that they were brothers-in-law. Hanbrook was my uncle. I didn't want to tell you anything that might point you to that until I was sure that I could trust you." He tried to twist away from Steele's uncomfortable grip, and Steele let him go. "I swear, Laura. That's the truth. My uncle is dead - possibly murdered - and if somebody killed him for the... for the business secrets I mentioned earlier... well then they might be after me as well. I had to be sure."

"A likely story." All the same, Steele was finding his anger beginning to dissipate. Laura glared at him.

"It makes sense to me." She sighed. "I appreciate your consideration, Mr Steele, and the fact that you cared enough to come down here and make sure that I was... in safe hands. But the truth is, I think Mr Coll-- Mr Evans has some valid concerns."

"You do?" Steele blinked down at her. "He lied to you Laura."

"Yes." She raised an eyebrow. "It's not as if that's never happened before, though, is it." She reached out, putting her hand down on top of that of her would-be suitor. "Charles, would you give us a moment? We're... going to take a walk."

"Of course." He smiled up at her, and she returned the smile with a dazzling one of her own. Just the way that he looked at her was doing things to her that she had never thought possible. She found herself wanting to stay with him in the restaurant forever - or for the rest of the day at least. "Come on, Mr Steele."

"Right behind you, Miss Holt." He trailed in her wake as she led the way to the door. "Where are we going?"

"Somewhere. Anywhere." She took his hand, pulling him along faster. "Somewhere where there won't be any witnesses."

"Laura, I only did what I--"

"Shut up." Outside the restaurant she spied the limousine, and pulled him towards it. "Inside. Now."

"Fine." He slid into the cushioned interior, and Laura followed after. Fred glanced back at them both in his usual detached manner.

"The office," Steele told him. Laura shook her head.

"Just drive us about, Fred. Anywhere."

"Er... okay Miss Holt." Fred, despite never letting on what he knew, was aware that Laura was the more senior of the two, and was consequently ready to do her bidding despite the daggers that Steele glared in his direction. He started up the engine. "Anywhere in particular?"

"Just drive." She settled back into the seat, and refused to meet Steele's gaze. He sighed heavily. So much for rescuing the damsel from the clutches of the evil prince. Douglas Fairbanks Jnr - or Snr, for that matter - had never found it this difficult. He folded his arms.

"Might I inquire what we're supposed to be talking about?"

"Not here, Mr Steele." She stared out of the window, filling the air with stony vibes. "I want to wait until we're alone."

Somehow, Steele didn't like the sound of that.


"I was only trying to help." Faced with the enraged figure of Laura Holt at her most icy, Steele was beginning to flounder. It didn't help that they had been unable to find anywhere suitably deserted before Laura's patience had given out, and on the less than empty stretch of dock it was necessary to keep his voice well down. "I was worried about y--"

"You were not worried about me. You were worried about yourself. Go on, admit it. You were jealous."

"Jealous?" Enraged he put his hands on his hips, towering over her like some indignant school master. "Why of all the conceited--"

"Conceited!" Her eyes widened in outrage. "Me? Why you - you - you--" She broke off, unable to find the words. For a moment they stared at each other, equally upset, before Steele finally tried a smile.

"I really am sorry."

"Yeah. Maybe." She stared up at him, wondering how he was capable of making her so angry, whilst being equally capable of taking her rage away as though it had never existed in the first place. "That still doesn't excuse what you did."

"He might have been a killer. He might have been the man that murdered Hollybrook."

"Hanbrook. And nobody murdered Hanbrook. He died in an accident."

"You don't know that. The police report--"

"Will be ready tomorrow, and it'll tell us that there's nothing to investigate. Charles lied about his name so that he wouldn't be traceable as a member of Hanbrook's family, if we turned out to be less than trustworthy. It sounds perfectly reasonable to me."

"Not to me it doesn't. You can't trust this man Laura. He's - he's--"

"A lawyer?"

"Well that is one point in his disfavour, but not the one I was going to mention." Steele was looking sulky. "His... his eyes are too close together."

"And for that you expect me to turn my back on him? He's a nice guy, Steele. I like being with him."

"You've only just met him."

"Sometimes you don't need any more time than that." She saw a flash of hurt in his eyes, and sighed. "Go home, Mr Steele. I have a lunch date to finish."

"You're not going back to that restaurant?!" He sounded more incensed than ever, and that burst her patience more than any comment about trust or reliability. She jabbed a hard finger into his chest.

"Yes. I'm going back to finish a nice, cosy lunch in a beautiful restaurant, with a man I enjoy being with. A man I like. A man who likes me. He smiles nicely. He talks nicely. He looks into my eyes... in the way that I like having my eyes looked into."

"He's a cheat." Steele sounded more sulky than ever, and Laura finally let her irritation bubble over.

"And you're not? Look, maybe this isn't the man I'm going to spend the rest of my life with - but he is the guy I want to spend now with. He says the right things, and he says them in just the right way."

"Lots of us learn how to do that. It's a handy trick." He saw the anger spark in her eyes, and realised that he might have gone too far. "I mean..."

"I'm not interested in what you mean." She sounded stiff. "Now unless you want to walk back, I'd suggest that you come with me now. I'm going to get Fred to drive me back to the restaurant. I only hope that Charles is still waiting there for me."

"Laura, Laura, Laura..." He was clinging to his last chance now, his voice almost pleading. "Think about this, please! You can't say that you want to spend time with someone who didn't even give you his real name. You can't honestly tell me that you trust him." She glared at him, her eyes clearly saying that she did not intend to make this a subject for discussion, and he winced at the anger on display. Her outrage was almost visible in the air between them. "Okay, so perhaps I'm not the person best placed to cast stones where that particular matter is concerned..."

She pushed him aside, stalking a short distance down the pier, and only turning about when there was a reasonable distance separating the two of them. "I beg your pardon? 'Cast the first stone'? You shouldn't even be picking up pebbles."

"Laura, I--"

"Don't try it Steele." She sounded angry, and her voice placed unnecessary emphasis on the single syllable of his name. "Maybe he did lie about his name, but like I said - he had good reason. And at the very least, I do still know one or two other things about him. It's actually a rather pleasant experience to know a few certainties about the person I'm working with."

He sounded subdued, although there were undertones of a strange kind of hardness in his voice. "I can give you certainties, Laura, if that's really what you want. I've supported you. I've stood by your side in a lot of situations where I'd have been much better placed just to walk away. I've helped you defend your agency - your life's work - sometimes at a great cost of my own. And let me remind you that it was you that dug many of those holes for yourself, creating your non-existent boss, with his far from non-existent problems. You can trust me. Can you really say that about - about Nigel?"

She stared back at him, meeting his eyes with a coolness that he did not like. "His name is Charles, and yes, I can. I don't have to wonder if he'll ever disappear back into a past I know nothing about. I won't have to wake up in the morning and wonder if he's still going to be around when I get to work. And he won't have me looking twice at the client's safe, just to make sure that he hasn't tried to take the jewels out of it. I trust him. Implicitly."

"I have never stolen the jewels out of a client's safe. For that matter, I have never stolen anything out of a client's safe, unless it was necessary for a case. And I have no intention of disappearing back into my past. Why would I? I have reasons for sticking around, Laura. Good reasons."

"Yeah?" Her eyes were a challenge. "Then tell me the truth, Steele. Give me a reason to trust you. Charles told me his real name, why don't you tell me yours?"

"I--" He might have been trying for an excuse, but the look in her eyes had clearly dissuaded him. Instead he lowered his head to stare at the ground. "I have a hundred names. Why is one of them so important to you?"

"Because normal people, with normal lives, like to have just the one name. It means something. If nothing else, Mr Steele, a name can bind you to someone, and if you're not prepared to make that kind of a gesture, I don't see why the hell I should be. I don't even know where you come from. I don't even know what nationality you are. I don't even know where you were born!"

"No." He glanced away, staring past her. "But the thing is Laura, that most of us don't actually remember that particular event in our lives, and we tend to rely on the accounts of other people who were present at the time. I haven't found any of those people yet, so I can't tell you. I don't know myself." He smiled slightly, his eyes warming almost enough to warm her by association. "But I've always imagined it was Ireland. It's a good place to begin a fairy tale, don't you think? The Emerald Isle, Land of Mystery. Sparkling jewel in the Atlantic Ocean..."

"And you've always had an attraction for jewels, haven't you." She turned away, glowering at the view. One of two people were looking their way, she now noticed, and she wondered how much they had heard. When she turned back Steele was looking wounded, although he covered it up well when he became aware of her scrutiny.

"Laura, I am sorry. I - I always thought we could overcome the shortcomings in our relationship. I thought--"

"You thought I was as much of a sap as all the other people you've conned in your illustrious career." She saw the hurt in his eyes, and immediately regretted her unfair outburst. It was far too late to take it back, though, and she kicked herself mentally. So much for We can still be friends...

"I would never con you, Laura." He was staring back at her with such intensity that she felt sure he was telling the truth. She hung her head.

"I know. I'm sorry." She wanted to say more then, and to apologise more profusely, but the purr of a car engine intruded upon her thoughts. Steele seemed oblivious to the sound, and approached her with his hands held out. She felt his soft touch on her shoulders just as the car engine stopped, and there came the click of a door opening. Both detectives looked up then, Steele reacting like a startled gazelle in his haste to pull his hands away from Laura. She experienced an odd burst of distress at the sudden loss of contact, as though her heart was crying out for him to hold her more tightly.

"Laura!" The soft, smooth voice of Charles made her force a smile and turn to face her newest friend. He was smiling at her, his strong, handsome face filled with warmth and welcome. "Am I interrupting something?"

"No. No, not at all." Steele took her hand for a second, a light touch practically invisible to all but the closest observer. "Actually I was just leaving."

"Leaving?" Panic lanced through Laura, but Steele merely smiled down at her, eyes amused but sad.

"Going back to the office. I have a phonecall to make, remember? Your hugely important Honnicutt affair."

"Oh." She nodded. "Yes. Of course. I, um - I have some files that might be useful there, actually. Perhaps I should--"

"Never mind about that Laura." Charles was reaching out for her hand. "I'm sure Mr Steele is capable of handling it on his own. He did found the agency, after all."

"Yes. Quite." Steele's smile was a trifle strained. "Although after having had Laura at my beck and call all these years, I've got rather used to it. I feel quite lost without her."

"It's not forever." Charles had changed his grip, sliding an arm around Laura's shoulders to pull her close to him. She didn't seem to be resisting, which didn't make Steele feel any better. "In the meantime, I have one or two plans for you, my dear. I apologise for following you, but I couldn't stand the thought of letting you go before... Well. There's so much of the day left. I thought we might take in a show. A fine play, a candlelit dinner..."

"Oh Charles." She found herself relaxing, then remembered Steele with a burst of guilt. She looked up, but he was already turning away. "Mr Steele!" He hesitated, and glanced back at her, but she found herself at a loss. What was there to say? "Er... Will I see you in the office tomorrow?"

"Who can say Laura. Who can say." He smiled a little stiffly, then nodded a farewell and walked away. Charles watched him go.

"Odd fish, your Mr Steele. Has he always been so... peculiar?"

"Peculiar?" She was almost affronted. "I think he's wonderful."

"Of course you do." He was touched by her loyalty to her employer, and that made her love him all the more. She wondered how it might feel, to find somebody she loved and trusted enough to tell the truth to. Somebody who could share in the great joke, and the real situation where Remington Steele was concerned. Maybe, after tonight, she would know for sure whether or not Charles might be that person. Already relaxing further into his embrace she let him lead her to his car, and into the soft leather interior. The seats seemed to move like liquid, folding her into them, and a cool, pleasant breeze eased away the worst of the heat. She wasn't one hundred percent sure, but she thought that the flow from the air conditioning was scented. That made her relax all the more.

"Back to town, Raymond." The chauffeur made some small reply in acknowledgement, and once again the soft note of the engine came to Laura's ears. Somehow it contrived not to disturb the gentle atmosphere inside the cushioned rear of the vehicle. She heard a crunch of gravel, and the sound of small stones rattling against the sides of the car.

"I wonder where Steele's got to?" Charles' words made her look up, but all that she saw as she stared out of the window was the company limousine, Fred standing in his accustomed place by the driver's door. He glanced up as the older, cherry-red car went past him, but showed no sign of having seen Laura inside it.

"What do you mean?" She was sleepy, and she knew that it showed in her voice. There was an answering fondness and affection in Charles' well-rounded voice.

"He was heading back this way, or at least I thought he was. But he hasn't reached his car yet."

"Probably decided to walk back to the office." She hoped that Fred realised that too, and didn't spend all day standing there waiting for him. "He likes to walk."

"Aren't you worried about him? A distinguished millionaire walking these streets alone?"

"No." She smiled, and rested her head against his shoulder. "Mr Steele can take care of himself."

"He can?" Charles sounded interested. "He's a man of many talents, your Mr Steele."

"A great many talents." She suppressed a yawn. "How long till the show?"

"About ninety minutes." He sounded distant, but she barely noticed.

"Good. Wake me when we get there." She heard him laugh, but after that she let herself drift away. Charles stroked her hair rather absently.

"A great many talents," he repeated to himself, then settled his arms around Laura as though to warm her as she slept. "Take the scenic route, Raymond."

"Very good sir." The car purred its way onto the quiet back streets, leaving the other traffic behind. Soon the waterfront was far in the distance, and the setting sun hid its accompanying warehouses from view. Charles let his head tip back against the seat, and closed his own eyes, lulled into a deep relaxation by the peace and tranquillity. He was feeling particularly pleased with himself, and especially by the way that Laura had accepted his explanations. He wondered, distantly, if Steele was going to be a problem; but he didn't really think that he would be. A cautious and protective boss couldn't get in the way all that much. With a broad smile he tightened his easy grip on Laura's warm shoulders, and let his cares slip away. Some days it was easy to forget the worries that weighed him down; and right now, with his dead uncle forgotten, there seemed to be nothing in the world that could reach him, in the seclusion of his cherry-red haven.


Steele wandered through the streets the way he had wandered them a hundred times before - both before and after becoming Remington Steele. He was angry with himself for having let things go so far with Laura, and he was equally annoyed at Laura herself. She knew how he felt about her, and he knew that she felt the same way about him - or at least he liked to entertain that fancy. They had known each other for how long now? Three months? Perhaps it was a little less, perhaps it was longer. He couldn't really remember. Either way he was sure that he wasn't alone in noticing the spark that existed between them - the way that she smiled at him; the way that her eyes lit up when he came in the room... His thoughts trailed off. The way that she lashed out at him when he angered her; the way that she so often lost her patience with him; the way she would shut him out of a conversation altogether, whilst treating him either as a lower-than-low employee, or - worse still - as somebody who did not deserve even that much of her attention. She was stuck-up, that was it. He nodded to himself. Stuck-up and arrogant. She couldn't accept his past, or the way in which he had used to make his living. Still made his living, every so often. She was... he sighed. She was lovely. He just didn't understand why she wouldn't give in to their obvious attraction, the way practically every other woman did. He wondered if James Bond ever had that sort of problem, and concluded that he probably did not. But then Laura was no Pussy Galore.

It was getting late when Steele remembered Fred, and suddenly recalled that the poor man was waiting with the car back towards the docks. He was probably getting bored by now, but then he was quite used to that. Many were the times when either Steele or Laura - or both of them - had told him to wait; and had then wandered off to get themselves kidnapped by irate suspects, or bashed over the head by disturbed thieves - Steele himself was particularly talented in that respect. In a rare moment of considerate thinking he thought about finding a phone, so that he could call his not-so-faithful employee; and promptly found himself in a neighbourhood where no working public phone seemed to exist. In the end he had to use one in the lobby of a cinema, which seemed as good a reason as any to stick around and see which movies were on show.

The girl in the box office was aged about twenty-five, with hair the same shade as that of Murphy Michaels, and eyes as blue as the sea. Steele found himself sizing her up appreciatively, before he remembered Laura, and decided that he wasn't going to look at any more girls this afternoon. The girl handed him his ticket with the most seductive of smiles, but he didn't return the gesture in any way more than was simply polite. She looked faintly disappointed.

An usherette took his ticket from him, no more than three feet from where he had bought it, and then led him up a flight of stairs, shining the way ahead with her huge - and unnecessary, since it was still daylight outside - torch. She pointed him to his seat, roughly in the middle of the auditorium, and promised that a cigarette girl would be around soon, with popcorn and hotdogs. Steele nodded his tanks. He liked cigarette girls in cinemas, with their overloaded trays bearing sweets and snacks aplenty. He always liked to imagine that some day one of them would present him with a secret message, secreted in a packet of Camels, the way that they so often did in the movies. It hadn't happened yet, but that didn't stop him hoping. After all, what else was a self-confessed movie buff with a dangerously vivid imagination supposed to do?

"Ten minutes till the movie sir." The usherette smiled at him even more seductively than had the girl in the box office, but again he did not really return her display of charm. He wasn't in the mood, which worried him. How far gone did he have to be, before girls stopped interesting him? Was he really that besotted with the charms of Laura Holt? The idea came close to terrifying him, so he called after the departing woman, thanked her warmly, and favoured her with one of his most promising smiles. She answered it with one of his own, and he felt himself feeling rather better. So much for swearing off women for the rest of the afternoon... but then the afternoon was probably over by now; and the evening was a whole different ball game.

The film was one he had never seen before, more recent than his usual tastes dictated, but still a pleasant enough way in which to while a way an hour or two. His usherette came back after the first of the late arrivals had found their seats, and he let her slide into the seat next to him. It was a just a shame, he thought, with more than a touch of spiteful fancy, that Laura was not there to see him with an interloper. Not that he was entirely sure what such an episode was supposed to teach her - or why he wanted to try making her jealous in the first place. It was pleasant to think about it, though, and to imagine that he meant enough to her to make her get jealous. He only wished that he knew for sure... which made him wonder if she wished the same about him. Steele wasn't sure if he was ready to wonder at the implications that brought up.

"Are you enjoying the film, sir?" He had been so engrossed in the action on screen that he hadn't noticed the approach of the cigarette girl. He had a mind to buy some elegant looking cigarettes - perhaps the gold striped brand that James Bond was supposed to smoke. Anything to take his mind off whatever show Charles was currently watching with Laura. The girl, however, seemed more interested in persuading him to buy a box of chocolates.

"They're on special offer, sir," she told him, looking typically helpful and single-minded. He shook his head.

"Sorry. Just not in the mood right now."

"They're very good, sir. Special edition."

"They don't look very special to me." Her words had made him miss a few vital seconds of the movie, and his usherette was looking frustrated. So too were a handful of other viewers, who were sitting close enough to have overheard his little exchange.

"I think you'll find these very special indeed, sir." The girl held them out to him. "Only two dollars and fifty cents, sir. I'm sure there's some young lady who'd be really pleased to get them." The usherette glanced up at the mention of young ladies, but Steele just looked aggrieved.

"Fine." He actually had some money on him for a change, which was a relief, since he doubted that the girl was equipped to deal with plastic. He was only able to come up with a five dollar bill, though, which made him wonder if he could count cigarette girl payoffs as business expenses. He handed over the note, received the chocolates, and with his most charming smile handed them to the usherette. She flushed nearly as red as the seat on which she was sitting.

"Thanks. And I don't even know your name."

"It's Harry." He watched her open the box. "Do they look pretty special to you?"

"I'd say so." She flipped back the lid and held it out for him to see. In place of the chocolates, ten neat bundles of notes were arranged inside the box - four bundles of hundred dollar bills, each one crisp, new and attractively unused. Steele gulped. Now that definitely beat little notes pushed into cigarette packets. He whistled.

"And I was hoping for a soft centre." He took the box back from the usherette, pulling out one of the bundles with hands that were tense with excitement. A quick flip close to his ear told him that there were about two hundred notes in the bundle - and that meant that there was twenty thousand dollars in his hands alone.

"You're really something, Harry." The usherette was squeezing his hand hard enough to dig in painfully with her nails. "I've been given chocolates before, but never ones like this."

"Sorry." He pulled the top note from the bundle in his hand, threw it into her lap, then stuffed the bundle back into the box with the others, tucked it under his arm, and made a dash for the exit. The audience moaned and muttered at his antics, but the usherette let out a squeal.

"Harry! Wait for me!"

"I'll call you!" He reached the door in double-quick time, looking back to see her struggling past the rest of the people on her row. So tangled was she in alien legs and feet that it did not look as though she was going to make it any time soon. He slipped out of the auditorium and onto the back stairs, strangely unsurprised to see the cigarette girl waiting for him.

"Mr Steele?" She looked concerned, as though anxious to make sure that she had contacted the right person. He nodded.

"That's me. But I am armed, so I would caution you not to--"

"I'm here solely for business reasons, Mr Steele." She glanced about, as though checking for eavesdroppers. "I represent certain interests... certain financial interests within the Los Angeles business world. My employers are worried about recent activities within the Hanbrook corporation. Do you understand me?"

"James Hanbrook was involved in criminal activities?" Steele glanced up and down the stairwell, now as cautious as the girl. She gave a small shrug.

"That depends on your definition of 'criminal'. He was, however, involved in certain political activities. Certain political representatives were paid certain funds. Those representatives now stand to take on high positions within the city, and the people I represent are anxious to make sure that that doesn't happen."

"I can imagine. Planning on substituting Hanbrook's loaded dice for your own?" Almost immediately Steele regretted asking the question, for it struck him now that the girl was probably representing some fairly powerful people. He wasn't sure that he wanted to dwell on the issue of who they might be - or what they might be capable of.

"We have our own interests, yes, but I'm not prepared to discuss them with you." She glanced about one final time. "Check the Hanbrook offices, Mr Steele. You might find some things there that will interest you."

"How do I know I can trust you?" It was an odd question to ask a cigarette girl, whilst standing on a flight of stairs with eighty thousand dollars hidden in a box of chocolates. She smiled at him.

"Because I'm telling the truth. And because I have no reason to lie." She gave a small shrug. "And because I have a nine-millimetre Beretta hidden in my sales tray that's watching your every move. It says that you don't want to question me too closely."

"It speaks my language." He smiled hesitantly. "I'll, er... I'll be going then."

"Stay in touch." She batted her lashes at him, "I rather enjoy giving you tip-offs."

"Hmm." He couldn't help smirking. "And I certainly enjoy receiving them. Don't happen to have anything on a Charles Evans by any chance?"

"Look in Hanbrook's office." She turned away. "See what you find."

"I'll do that." He watched as she climbed the stairs, vanishing quickly around a corner, and then waited a while to be sure that she had gone before he headed off himself. It was a quick journey to the nearest fire exit, and then, with his chocolate box tucked firmly under his left arm, he stepped up to the kerb to call a taxi. Now all he had to do was find Hanbrook's office.


"I appreciate your understanding, Laura." During the interval halfway through their show, Charles led the way to a secluded corner of the theatre's special bar area. A waiter appeared with a bottle of champagne, popping the cork before Charles had even had to raise a finger to order, which suggested to Laura that the lawyer owned this establishment, as well as The Soiree. She wasn't sure how she felt about that, although it was nice to be showered with expensive gestures. Laura was no stranger to money, but it was entirely different when the money in question was somebody else's. She decided that she could come to like it very much indeed, which worried her a bit. She wasn't sure why.

"It's okay." Smiling over the rim of the champagne glass, she gave a little shrug. "Let's just say that I'm used to people not giving me their real names."

"I suppose you would be, in your line of work."

"Yes." That and a little something else. She hesitated. "You... you are telling me the truth now, aren't you."

"Yes. I am." He looked terribly sheepish, which endeared him to her no end. "I really am sorry about that. You have no idea how badly I feel about it. Thing is, when I got the news about my uncle... I kind of panicked. He was involved in a lot of business dealings, and I don't know for certain if they were all... above board, as it were. As a matter of fact I have the distinct feeling that they were anything but."

"I see." She frowned at the bubbles in her drink. "Do you think that's why he was killed?"

"Hell no." He shook his head. "I'm sure that was just an accident. It's just that, although his kids inherit the business, I'm the one that runs a lot of it on a day by day basis. The lawyer angle helps, and I have shares in it all anyway, that I inherited from my father. The thing is, there are people who aren't going to like the idea of a lawyer being in charge. I guess they assume I'll want to weed out all the... the less trustworthy investors and shareholders and the like. And they'd be right."

"Now I understand." The frown faded from her face. "Well you're talking to the right person. I can put you in touch with financial experts who can check your records; I can handle your police liaison if you'd like. I have a pretty good working relationship with most of the police detectives in our half of the city. It might take some time..."

"And a lot of risks."

"Yes. Very likely." She raised her glass. "But I'm willing to try it if you are."

"Thanks." He smiled at her. "What about Mr Steele? Shouldn't you check it all with him before you agree to this?"

"Mr Steele is... very accommodating. He'll do what I ask."

"Sounds like the dream boss."

"Yeah. Sometimes he's just like I dreamed him." And sometimes he's more like a nightmare. She emptied her glass. "Come on. The second half must be starting again soon."

"Right with you." He took her hand. "I'm really grateful to you, for agreeing to help me like this. It'll be such a relief to know that my uncle's more unpleasant connections are going to be cut off. I'm sure he'd be relived too. He had a habit of getting in out of his depth."

"Most people do when they deal with the more shadowy elements in investment." Laura gave his hand a squeeze. "But don't worry about it. Whatever he got himself into, I'm going to help you get out of it. It's just a shame your uncle didn't tell me about all this himself."

"Don't worry about my uncle. Wherever he is right now, I'm sure he doesn't want anybody bothering themselves with him. I just want to worry about neutralising any remaining threats, and making sure that there are no nasty surprises waiting for the auditors, when they check out my uncle's estate." He pulled her a little closer and kissed her on the forehead. "You're pretty special, you know that?"

"Thanks." Surprised, she gave him a quick, impulsive hug. It made her think of Steele, and how he had hugged her before Charles' arrival at the waterfront. She quelled the thought. Steele wasn't exactly forthcoming where positive gestures were concerned, and in that respect at least he was no competition for Charles Evans. Arm in arm she and the lawyer headed back upstairs to the auditorium. Already she was thinking about this latest case. Who were James Hanbrook's shadowy connections? And just how deep was the hole her late client had dug for himself? Charles might have been convinced by the official findings, and it might all have looked like a tidy and tragic accident, but Laura was beginning to suspect that Hanbrook's death was anything but straightforward. And through it all, something else was nagging at her mind, which she couldn't put her finger on at all. First thing in the morning, she was going to have to get together with Murphy. She needed to do some serious brainstorming.


The cab driver, with the kind of built-in encyclopaedic knowledge possessed by examples of his breed the world over, seemed to know exactly where James Hanbrook had kept his offices, and in no time at all Steele was standing outside a large, steel and glass building in downtown Los Angeles. He straightened his tie, realising to his surprise that he was just a little overdressed - if it were possible for a man as distinguished as Remington Steele to be so. He had changed into his favourite, crisp black tuxedo when he had gone to meet Laura and Charles at the restaurant, and had been wearing it ever since. It was good for making a dramatic entry, even in front of the generally informal lunch crowd at a unremarkable eating establishment, and had been indispensable in his ploy to get past the head waiter, so that he could gain access to Laura and Charles' table. He brushed a few specks of lint from the jacket now, adjusted the tie one final time, and admired the building before him. Perhaps the ensemble would prove similarly indispensable now, as he attempted to gain entrance to the Hanbrook offices.

"Can I help you sir?" The building receptionist looked bored, which was in line with practically every other building receptionist Steele had ever encountered, particularly at such a late hour. He smiled at her, confident that he could make her thaw in no time.

"Remington Steele. I was working for Mr James Hanbrook just prior to his death, and I'm here to close one or two details."

"Mr Hanbrook isn't in today." The receptionist put down her nail file, as though cross that her manicuring duties were being disturbed, and glanced over an appointments book in front of her. "Don't see your name down in the security clearances folder."

"You misunderstand me, madam." He gave her a slight bow, of the kind proven on many an occasion to warm the most indifferent of hearts. "Mr Hanbrook is dead, in an automobile accident in the very early hours of this morning. There are some desperately unfortunate circumstances surrounding my investigations for him, and it may be that his death is in fact no accident at all." He switched to a grave look that he thought he carried off rather well. "Murder is a strong word, and one that it pains me to use, but in this instance..."

"Murder?" She blinked at him, clearly interested. "Who said he was murdered? You just said he died in a car crash."

"An accident, perhaps... or a cunning and dastardly plot to make a death appear as though it were other than a murder." He refrained from throwing in a film title to back up his thesis. "There may be some vital clue in his office - some scrap of material left clinging to a loose nail... a spot of blood lost in the carpet... perhaps a fingerprint on a champagne glass, or a single red hair caught in the curtains... Any number of things might tell me what fate really befell Mr Hanbrook... and may lead me to the culprit, if indeed there is a culprit to be found." He turned on his smile again, switching it up to full gear, and allowed a little dramatic flare to light his eyes. "It may even be, Miss..." he consulted the badge pinned to her immaculate uniform tunic, "Miss Thoreau, that somebody in this very building is the perpetrator." He frowned slightly, giving her the full benefit of his interrogator's stare. "It might even be you."

"Oh Mr Steele." She flushed with a mixture of embarrassment and excitement, her whole manner changed now that she had something upon which to focus her obviously active mind. "Mr Hanbrook has the whole of the fourth floor for his personal use. His own office is room twelve." She held up a key. "Will you be needing some help?"

"It's enough to know that you are here should I require you, dear lady." He took the key from her, beaming all the while. "I'm sure you'd be invaluable, but I'm afraid that special training is required to be sure of not destroying important evidence." He let his smile turn a little more seductive. "But if I do find anything, I'll be sure to debrief you thoroughly."

"Oh Mr Steele." She giggled and flushed even more, and he spun on his heel to march away. Better to leave it on a high note, when his performance was still at its best, he told himself. Miss Thoreau stared after him, and he could feel her eyes on him all the way to the lifts. He waggled his fingers in a little wave as the lift doors closed, then he leaned back against the wall and let out a deep breath. It was nice to know that the old ways still worked, when Laura wasn't around to look disapproving. Trouble was, as he was beginning to realise, he liked having her there to scold him. It was all a part of the game.

The lift stopped on the third floor, which was just as Steele had planned, and he made his way up to the fourth on foot. It was easier to arrive incognito by stairs, when the doors were more readily controlled, than to arrive by lift and have the automatic doors slide open whether you wanted them to or not. In the event his caution seemed unnecessary, for he could find no one at all in the offices.

He went straight to room twelve, finding the lock a very simple Yale model that fell quickly to his useful set of locksmith's tools. He heard the last tumbler click into place, turned the handle with a delighted flourish, and hurried into the office. The blinds were drawn, and the light inside was limited - presumably Hanbrook had closed up for the night the last time he had been there, and had never got the chance to return the next morning to draw back the slatted blinds. Steele refrained from doing so now, thinking back to his words to the woman on the desk downstairs. Did he really know how to collect evidence the way he had claimed? Certainly he knew how to take fingerprints, but he had no idea which ones had a right to be on the furniture and which ones were there without permission. Similarly he could see no immediate clues of a textile or blood related nature, which was disappointing. He had hoped that the place would be filled with clues and handy pointers. The cigarette girl had certainly suggested that there were things here that he would want to see. He gave up looking for the ideal, and instead turned his attentions to the slightly less obvious. The desk drawers were more or less empty, save for a few letters that were anything but incriminatory, and a handful of family photos. He gave each one a cursory once over with a magnifying glass he had found on the desk, just on the off chance that there might be a microdot or two, secreted within one of the scenes of family bliss. He wasn't really surprised when the search came up blank. Microdots seemed so rare these days as to be positively endangered, which was sad, in Steele's opinion. Nobody did things properly anymore.

There were two safes, one that opened easily to reveal a large amount of money and a set of jewelled cufflinks - Steele eyed them with itching fingers, but had to remember his claim to Laura earlier in the day, that he did not steal from clients. He shut the safe again and turned his attentions to the second one, set inside the first with what looked like a double-action lock. There was a four digit combination lock as well as a keyhole, which he was fairly sure would be a little more complex than the one on the door to the office. Undeterred he pulled out his locksmith's kit, setting to work with gusto. It was nearly five minutes later that he finally heard the lock give way, and he breathed a sigh of relief before beginning the task of cracking the combination. As was usual with safes, it was rather less secure than the manufacturers had no doubt claimed, but even so it took him a little longer than his average time to get the thing open. It swung towards him, revealing a door of impressive thickness, and a hinge strong enough to withstand all manner of brutal assaults. The whole thing was quite a work of art, which improved Steele's mood no end, and almost made him prepared to forgive this mystery for not having involved any microdots. Mindful of the time he was taking, and of the enthusiastic Miss Thoreau waiting for him downstairs, he began rifling through the papers inside the inner safe. It did not take him long to realise that his cigarette girl had been right. James Hanbrook had definitely been up to something.

There were receipts - kept, no doubt, in case of double-cross; there were photographs, written accounts and transcripts; there were newspaper articles, and pages torn from books and magazines - all pointing towards one, inescapable conclusion. James Hanbrook - whoever he might have been (and Steele was still a little put out that he had never been called upon to meet the man himself) - had been as crooked as Robert Shaw in The Sting. As far as Steele could make out, with his limited knowledge of the local political scene, two men who were heading for high positions within the state governor's office had been receiving payments from Hanbrook for years, agreeing to do his bidding, and where possible twist laws to suit him. Steele had seen it all before, in other cities and political offices; and he knew the way that it worked. He felt rather proud for having uncovered the affair, but found himself caught somewhere between a sense of glee at his triumph, and a lingering sense of guilt over the pain it would likely cause Laura. However junior Charles' rôle within the firm might be, there was definitely enough to suggest that he had been aware of the situation. It was with a somewhat ambivalent sense of pride that Steele gathered up the pieces of paper, although he could not help imagining the look on Murphy's face when he took it all back to the office. He smiled to himself at the thought that the redheaded American would have to eat all his previous, derogatory words. So much for being just the face behind the name. He was actually getting pretty good at this detecting lark.

"Going somewhere?" As he rose to his feet he heard the voice behind him, and realised that he had not heard anybody entering the room. He spun about, aware that he looked guilty despite his perfectly good reasons for being in the office. He hoped that his perfectly good reasons covered opening the safe.

"I beg your pardon?" There were two of them, large enough to be rather more than just security men, both dressed in rumpled tuxedoes that had nothing like the style of his own, painstakingly tailored suit. They wore soft-soled shoes, he noted with regret, yearning once again for the old standards. Bad guys were supposed to march about in heavy, hobnailed boots. It was only fair, after all. At the very least they should emit the occasional evil giggle to announce their presence. "I'm Remington Steele. Perhaps you could--"

"We know who you are." A heavy hand descended on his shoulder, dragging him away from the safe and causing him to drop his collected evidence all over the office floor. "That's why we're here."

"Oh." The announcement gave him a unpleasant sinking feeling. So much for having got the hang of the detecting lark. Now if only he could get the hang of the bit where he avoided getting detected himself. "Do I get to make a phonecall?"

"Only if it's to the morgue." He was spun to face the wall, and then frisked by hands that were none too gentle. They came up empty-handed, for Remington Steele, man of charm and wit that he was, never carried a gun; and fortunately neither man seemed to have noticed the box of chocolates sitting on the desk. "We've got somebody downstairs who'd like a word with you."

"Lucky me." He considered making a break for it, but since the only likely escape route seemed to be through the window he soon dismissed the idea. Maybe there would be a chance later on. The hope was soon dashed, for sandwiched between the two gorillas, his arms firmly held, there seemed little chance of getting away. He allowed himself to be led to the lift. Neither of his consorts bothered speaking another word.

The lobby was as deserted as before. Miss Thoreau glanced up as the threesome passed, and she called a cheery farewell to Steele. He nodded in reply, wondering if she was at all perturbed to see him in the close company of a pair of barely housetrained bruisers. She didn't even raise an eyebrow, and he felt his hopes sinking even further. Outside a long black limousine awaited, and as the little group approached it, one of the back doors opened. Steele was pressured inside and his guards followed close behind him.

Inside the car was brightly lit, the cushioned interior as plush and indulgent as Steele's own chauffeur-driven vehicle. There were two men sitting opposite him; both dressed expensively; both holding large, unlit cigars that screamed wealth and self importance. Fairly certain that he was now face to face with the two crooked politicians on Hanbrook's payroll, Steele smiled nervously.

"If you're going to threaten me I can assure you that I cave-in very easily under pressure." He looked from one man to the other. "And I know absolutely nothing at all about anything."

"Shut up." One of the big guards elbowed him hard in the ribs, and he lapsed into an uneasy silence. One of the more richly-attired men leaned towards the glass separating the back of the limousine from the driver's cab, and rapped sharply upon it with his cigarette lighter.

"The pier, Henry," he said, his voice easy, well-spoken and almost entirely emotionless. The chauffeur nodded, and almost immediately the engines started up. Steele swallowed. Piers meant water, and water invariably meant that somebody would get wet. He smiled uneasily.

"Isn't it the wrong time of year for pier attractions?" The second of the cigar-bearing men fixed him with a cold and withering smile.

"The pier we're thinking about hasn't had any attractions on it for a very long time." He flicked on his own golden cigarette lighter, and set the tip of his huge cigar aglow. "Except for our attractions that is." Steele's two huge guards began to giggle in amusement, and the would-be detective felt his heart sink still further. Ten minutes ago he had been on top of the world, and now he was about to become fish food. Some days you really couldn't win.


"Any word from Laura yet?" Bernice, who was always interested in the subject of hot dates, took Murphy his final coffee of the day as he prepared to close up shop and go home. He smiled up at her.

"Any word in particular that you were expecting?"

"Oh...this and that." She smiled back, trying not to look too enthusiastic. "You know. Things."

"Like... who is he? What's he like? How much money does he have? Is there a brother?" Murphy laughed at her indignant expression, and she laughed too.

"Yes, I suppose so." She wandered around behind his chair. "Are you okay? Not too jealous?"

"I'm not about to go dashing around trying to expose him as a fraud, if that's what you mean." Murphy stared at his coffee, thinking about Steele. "It's funny that our great leader never came back this afternoon. He must have really been sulking."

"He's never struck me as that much of the sulky type." Bernice perched on the corner of the desk. "Maybe he's really on to something. He does have this knack of finding things out."

"Yeah, which invariably make a situation far more complicated that it needs to be." Murphy sighed. "Maybe you're right. Maybe we should be worrying about Laura."

"Maybe we should." Bernice eyed the telephone. "It does seem a little bit odd that neither of them has called in."

"Yeah, but just because Steele doesn't trust this guy doesn't have to mean anything... There could be any number of explanations as to why Laura hasn't phoned." Murphy sighed. "Oh come on. It's late, and we should both be at home. There's no sense worrying over something like this."

"Maybe not." Bernice could not take her eyes from the telephone. "But on the other hand..."

"Yeah. I know." Murphy was rather at a loss. "Okay. I'll wait another hour, but that's all." Bernice raised an eyebrow, and he glowered at her. "Maybe two hours." Her eyes grew that little more imploring, and with a scowl he snatched up the receiver and began to dial. "Okay, okay. I'll see if she's home."

"Great." She jumped to her feet. "I'm going to call Mr Steele, see where he is."

"And what happens if neither of them answers?" Pausing in mid-dial, Murphy glanced up at her as he asked the question. Bernice hesitated, then shrugged.

"Then I guess we keep on trying."

"All this because our own personal con-man thinks he's spied a fellow artist." Murphy didn't want to admit that he was beginning to respect Steele's instincts enough to consider trusting them.

"It's not just that." Bernice glanced at her watch. "It is late."

"So she's probably having a little fun!"

"Maybe." The receptionist shrugged. "And maybe so was James Hanbrook - right before his car went off the road."


"I've always liked the seaside, haven't you?" Whistling merrily to himself as he tied Steele to one of the huge wooden support posts of an old, abandoned pier, one of the two expensively-dressed men spoke between puffs of thick black tobacco smoke. He was whistling what sounded like a heavily corrupted version of Beethoven's Fifth, and his words came in handfuls between bars.

"Yeah. Maybe it's the pleasant sea breeze." Trying not to cough as he breathed in some of the foul-smelling cigar smoke, Steele surreptitiously tested the strength of the ropes. They were discouragingly stout and tight.

"I'm glad you approve." The man finished tightening the ropes, then stood back a little way to admire his handiwork. "Mm. Very good, even if I do say so myself. I did a tour of duty in the navy, you know. I think it shows in the knots."

"I'll take your word for it. Can't really see from here."

"No? What a shame." The man performed a rough turn. "Can't see a whole lot from there actually, can you; excepting the sea of course. Still, that is why we chose the place."

"I rather thought it might be." Steele glanced out to sea, where the tide was not far from changing. He estimated than within a couple of hours he would be submerged. Already it was getting cold, and by then it was likely to be freezing, so whether it was hypothermia or drowning that would carry him off first was hard to say. He wasn't sure that he really wanted to stick around and find out. "Can I ask why this particular method? I mean, call me old-fashioned, but I've always thought guns had a certain style."

"They're also far too easily traceable. Here it's likely nobody will find you for weeks, and even if you're seen tomorrow, there's nothing to link you to us."

"People do know that I'm investigating Hanbrook and Evans."

"Sure to. But they won't know what you found out, will they. Hanbrook had business rivals who suspected what he was mixed up in, but if they could have proved it they would have done so months back. They can look all they like, but they're not going to find. And if they're thinking of looking any deeper, I've got a feeling that your disappearance will dissuade them."

"Is that why you killed Hanbrook? Because people were starting to suspect?"

"We didn't kill him. As far as I know that really was just an accident." The man puffed thoughtfully on his cigar for a few moments. "Damn, but this place has got a great sea view. You're a lucky man, Steele. Most people don't get something half this good to look at when they stare death in the eye."

"I'd be happy to swap places with you."

"No deal." The joking tone vanished from the previously good-humoured voice. "I'd say that it's been a pleasure, Steele; but it hasn't. Goodbye."

"That's it? No overly self-confident boasts about your plans? No longwinded explanations of your motives? You're supposed to at least rub your hands together and twist the ends of your moustache."

"And you're supposed to come up with some brilliant escape plan." The man grinned at him around his fat cigar. "But no such luck." He turned away. "Die quickly, Steele. Do us all a favour."

"So much for the witty repartee." Steele sighed then, left alone, turned his attentions to the ropes. He could not find any way to loosen them, although that hardly meant that he would stop looking. Tied as he was, on a steeply-sloping beach, seated on the sand, he was all too aware that he did not have very long. He was also aware that he was practically invisible to anybody else who might happen to be on the beach - not that there appeared to be anyone, particularly now that the sun was going down, and was taking the temperature with it. He was under the pier, hidden in shadow, his back to the main part of the beach. The posts and struts would block him from the view of anybody who was not specifically looking. The thought was not an inspiring one. Bracing his tied feet against the soft sand, he tried to push himself to his feet. Perhaps he would get lucky, and the rough wood of the post would loosen his bonds, or cut through the rope altogether. There was no such luck. He could not even move, let alone find enough slack to allow him to scrape the ropes against the wood. Neither could he stand up. All that he seemed to be getting for his trouble was a pair of mangled wrists. He wondered if Murphy and Bernice were worried yet, but had to smile at the thought. Some chance - they were probably celebrating his failure to return to the office. Alone, and with no prospect of anybody coming along to change that state of affairs, he turned his attentions once more to the ropes. There had to be a way out of this - if only because there always had been in the past.


"Have a grape." The back of Charles' cherry-red car was stocked as well as a supermarket, and a fruit basket in its own, specially chilled compartment was the icing on the cake as far as Laura was concerned. She declined the grape, but went with a pear instead. Charles seemed to think it was a good selection, and they shared a laugh about their similar tastes in fruit. Maybe that was where her relationship went wrong with Steele, Laura thought. He never seemed interested in eating pears.

"This is an incredible car." She was almost ridiculously comfortable in her seat, and the ambient temperature was persistently fixed at just the right level to make her feel wonderful. She felt an almost overpowering urge to kick off her shoes and curl up.

"It's all down to Raymond." Charles nodded at his chauffeur. "He looks after me." Laura cast a glance in the chauffeur's direction, but didn't see the uniformed man give any acknowledgement of this compliment. She rather got the impression that Raymond didn't like his boss very much.

"He been with you long?" The pear was stubbornly juicy, and she felt sure that she wasn't looking nearly as sophisticated as she would have liked. Charles didn't seem to mind, and in fact looked even more sticky than she did. Somehow that just seemed to make her like him even more.

"No, not long. He was recommended by a friend of my uncle's. He's like a bodyguard as well as a chauffeur. Watches me wherever I go."

"Reassuring I suppose." It sounded creepy to Laura, but she supposed that Charles felt comfortable with it. He looked uncertain as he answered, though; almost as if he didn't find it very reassuring at all.

"I wonder where your Mr Steele has got himself to." He changed the subject very suddenly, which made her wonder - but she scolded herself for not being able to turn off her detective's instincts.

"Probably at home, or out on the town on the arm of some beautiful woman. Or doing a tour of the local cinemas, looking for black and white movies to quote at me later."

"Movie buff is he?"

"You could say that. It seems that every case we have, he can quote the movie with the matching plot. Of course things never go quite the way RKO said they would. Doesn't stop Mr Steele though." She smiled. "I think he's a little..." and she tapped her head to complete the description. Charles laughed.

"Great minds often teeter on the edge of madness."

"Oh he's not teetering. He already teetered." She smiled though, unable to get Steele's smile out of her head. Time to think about something else, clearly. "Are we going anywhere else tonight?"

"I thought we might take a spin on a dance floor, if you feel up to it. Do you tango?"

"I used to. Haven't in ages."

"Good. Neither have I. Perhaps we should begin with a waltz?"

"Pardon me, sir, but Mr Walters called earlier. He said could you please get in touch with either him or Mr Bates before it gets too late. He said it was urgent." Raymond's voice came over the speakers in crystal clear quality, just as though he had been biding his time all this while. It was almost as if he was keeping Charles in check, and making sure that he didn't go off to enjoy himself before his chauffeur thought it was time. Charles looked nervous.

"Mr Walters called on the car phone? Did he say what it was about?"

"He wants to meet you at the abandoned pier. You know the one."

"I know the one alright." Charles sighed. "Can't I just call him?"

"He was very insistent sir." So was Raymond, an edge noticeable to his voice. Charles sighed.

"Sorry Laura. Business. Do you mind if we take a little detour before the dance? I have to speak to... one of my investors."

"Of course." She frowned. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah. Just... just cross with him for calling so late. It's probably nothing that can't wait until morning, but I like to keep my investors sweet." He put an arm around her. "It's pretty close to where we are right now. Shouldn't take long."

"Fine." She contented herself with finishing her pear, gazing out of the window at the buildings going by. They were beginning to get rundown, suggesting that they were heading for a place that was not high on the list of tourist attractions. She only knew of one abandoned pier that was anywhere nearby, and that was one that had been closed for years. Nobody ever went there, and the place was as quiet as the grave. It unnerved her, although she wasn't entirely sure why. Charles seemed preoccupied, as though the place spooked him as much as it did her, and he didn't speak again for the rest of the trip. Only when the car purred to a halt did he galvanise himself back into action, and escorted her from the car before Raymond could reach her door.

"Wait here thanks Raymond." Charles glanced around, looking towards the pier on the beach below them. Raymond looked a little disapproving.

"Shouldn't Miss Holt wait here as well? It may be that Mr Walters and Mr Bates want to talk to you about something confidential."

"Nothing to stop them. I'm sure Miss Holt won't mind taking a little stroll along the beach whilst we chat." He stared out to sea. "Tide's coming in though. We'll have to hurry or we'll get our feet wet." He took Laura's hand. "Come along. Before it gets too dark to see where we're going."

"Strange place to meet a business associate." Taking care to keep her footing on the crumbling ground, where earth met sand in fine powder, Laura did not spare much time to look about at the beach. Charles shrugged.

"They're strange associates. They don't want anybody to know about their involvement in the company."

"Oh. Worried about putting up share prices I suppose."

"Yeah." Charles sounded subdued. "Something like that."

"Mr Evans." The man that spoke was dressed in an expensive suit, and was smoking a large, fat cigar. His companion was similarly dressed, and instead of speaking he stood to one side and flicked hot ash onto the sand. "And Miss...?"

"Holt." Laura shook his hand, although she didn't enjoy doing so. He had an unpleasant grip. "Laura Holt. I'm... one of Mr Evans' security advisors."

"Really?" The man arched an eyebrow. "Well I am Norman Walters, Miss Holt. I need to have a talk with Mr Evans alone, if that's alright with you?"

"Yes, of course." She squeezed Charles' hand. "See you in a few minutes."

"Thanks Laura." He squeezed back, then smiled and turned away. Soon the threesome were deep in conversation, almost as though Laura herself were forgotten completely. She sighed and turned away, strolling along the sand beside the pier. The tide was approaching, and although it was still some way distant she didn't think that it would be long before it had covered this part of the beach. The slope was steep enough to make submersion a very quick process. Kicking fountains of sand into the air she wandered under the pier, looking over the rough, barnacle covered posts. There was something fixed to one of them, but in the shadows and the growing darkness it was impossible to see what it was. With nothing better to do she walked closer, and soon was able to see that the object was moving. In fact it appeared to be struggling. Wondering if somebody had tied a dog there, and had then wandered off and forgotten it, she broke into a run - but had only taken a few strides before she was close enough to see that the struggling object was no dog. It was a human - and it was wearing a very familiar tuxedo.

"Mr Steele!" She skidded to a halt beside him, too surprised to see him sitting there, tied to the pier, to do anything about it at first. He looked up at her in a similar state of amazement.

"Miss Holt. I have to say I'm impressed. However did you manage to track me down so quickly?"

"Track you down?" She shook her head. "Never mind. I'd better get you out of here. Maybe Charles has a knife."

"Charles? You're here with Charles?" He looked worried, and immediately tried to twist around to see who else might be on the beach. "Laura listen to me. You're in danger. Charles is mixed up in--"

"That again? Look, he lied about his name. We sorted that out. If you could just see past your own short-sighted jealousy for five minutes--"

"Jealousy?" Forgetting his ropes he tried to stand up, but of course was unable to do so. "Jealousy? Why-- I can assure you, Miss Holt, that my feelings on this matter are of a strictly professional nature. It so happens that whilst you've been swanning around the countryside with that lawyer, I've been investigating the goings-on in his uncle's firm. There are two crooked politicians who are mixed up in... in some political, financial thing - I confess that the details are a little vague." He saw the disparaging look in her eyes. "Laura, I assure you that I don't go tying myself to piers as a form of amusement. There are two men here called Walters and Bates. They're the crooked politicians. I was hired by a sales girl in a cinema who gave me a box of chocolates, only they weren't really chocolates at all, they were money disguised as chocolates, and she said--"

"Save it Mr Steele." Laura was looking dark. "Walters and Bates?"

"Yes!" His eyes narrowed. "You know them?"

"She came here to meet us, Mr Steele. Thoughtful of her, I think you'll agree." Strolling towards them with his cigar in one hand and an automatic pistol in the other was Walters. A self-satisfied smirk was plastered across his face, making his already unpleasant countenance all the more unpleasant still. "It's a shame that you had to see and hear all of this, my dear. I had no intention of killing you before."

"Mr Walters..." Charles, his face a deadly shade of white, had run up after them. His collar and tie were crooked, suggesting that he had been on the receiving end of some of the same kind of persuasive conversation that Steele himself had encountered earlier. "You don't have to--"

"Shut up Charles." Wandering along in his wake, Bates was also carrying a gun. He also held a length of rope. "If you'd be so kind, Miss Holt, as to attach yourself to one of these posts?" He gestured to the one beside Steele's, slightly higher up the sloping beach. "From here you should be able to watch your colleague drown; in the second or two before you drown as well."

"No!" Charles tried to pull the rope from his hand, but Bates swung up his gun, striking the younger man on the temple with the barrel. Charles stumbled but did not fall, instead crouching in a protective huddle with one hand gripping his head. Bates did not look impressed.

"I won't ask you again, Miss Holt." As if to illustrate his point, he grabbed her arm and pushed her against the post. Steele struggled, but was unable to go to her aid. Laura struggled as well, but for all his dandy clothes and obviously costly after shave, Bates was no weakling. He used his superior weight to push her to the ground and hold her against the post, whilst his colleague tied her to it. The knots held fast.

"I - I don't think you should be doing this." Obviously terrified, and completely at a loss, Charles had straightened up, now staring at the scene before him with wide and empty eyes. Steele glared at him, as far as he could with his restricted field of vision.

"Then do something about it you idiot. Help her!"

"I can't." His voice shaking, Charles leant against the nearest post to steady himself. "I'm sorry Laura. I'm sorry."

"Charles!" She stared after him as he began to run away. "Charles!"

"Don't waste your time on him, Miss Holt." Walters patted her cheek, as though by consolation. "By the time he stops shaking the tide will have flooded this place. There'll be nothing left of you but fish food."

"Let her go." Trying to twist around to watch them, Steele stared up at the closest of the pair in what he hoped was polite determination. "She doesn't know anything."

"Well maybe there'll be time for you to fill her in before you drown." Bates leaned closer to him, to check that his knots were still tight, and tightened them a little further just to be sure. "Pleasant dreams. It's a nice spot to bring a lady friend, Steele. I applaud your good taste."

"We'll get out of here." Laura hoped that she sounded more certain than she felt. Walters laughed at her.

"Sure you will. In a month or two when somebody finally finds you. Until then, you're a part of the furniture. I'd get comfortable if I were you." He gestured to his companion. "Come on. Let's get out of here before it gets dark. I want to be able to see the path off the beach."

"Right with you." Bates glanced back at the twosome. "Can I get you anything before you leave? A magazine? A cup of coffee? Maybe a life raft?"

"Laugh while you still can." Steele craned his neck to look back at the pair. "By this time tomorrow Miss Holt and her associates will have made you front page news."

"The only one of us making the papers will be you, when you wind up as a missing person." Bates kicked a cloud of sand in Steele's direction, making the detective choke. "So long." With that parting shot he and his friend disappeared into the distance. Steele let out a long sigh.

"That didn't go as well as I'd hoped." He shook his head to try to get the sand out of his hair, and attempted to blink some of it out of his eyes. "How are you feeling, Miss Holt?"

"Apprehensive." She hesitated. "About Charles..."

"Water under the pier, Laura. We have more important things to worry about right now. Can you work any slack into your ropes?"

"I don't think so." She smiled. "And thankyou, incidentally. For saying that I'd crack the case by this time tomorrow."

"Credit where it's due, Miss Holt. I told you that earlier."

"Yes, but you do usually take all of the credit yourself."

"It's a hard life being a figurehead." He struggled a little harder. "No luck here I'm afraid."

"The tide's getting closer." She was squinting out to sea, vision hampered by the deepening dusk. "I can see it."

"Then don't look." He was struggling harder still, at the expense of the stitching on his previously well cared for tuxedo. "We're going to get out of here, Laura."

"Of course." She turned her attention to the ropes, trying to work out a system by which she could chafe the knots against the rough wood of the post. Maybe that way she could cut her way free. Beside her, using rather less cerebral methods, Steele was clearly getting nowhere. "Hold that thought. We're going to get out of here."

"That's the spirit." Somehow he still sounded cheerful. "It's going to be alright, Laura. I promise."

And for some reason she believed him.


"You didn't have to do that." Flanked by Bates and Walters' two large guards, Charles sat in the back seat of the black limousine. His chauffeur, Raymond, was following on behind in Charles' own car, and the lawyer was wishing fervently that he was in it too. He didn't like riding with the two crooked politicians.

"Yes we did." Bates stubbed out his cigarette on the car door. "They knew too much."

"You could have bought them out."

"Not Remington Steele. The man has a reputation for honesty and integrity. His past is clear of blame. He would never have accepted a bribe."

"I could have talked to Laura."

"Miss Holt is as famously honest as her boss. Neither of them were going to play the game, Charles. We did what had to be done." The car came to a sudden halt, and the lawyer jumped violently. Walters smiled.

"We've arrived at your home, Charles. Calm down. Go inside and make yourself a nice warm drink. Relax."

"Yes." Charles nodded very hard, and waited for one of the two gorillas to let him out. He practically fell through the door in his desire to leave the limousine. "I'll... be in touch."

"And so will we, Charles. So will we." Walters smiled up at him, then pulled the car door shut and leant back into the plush interior. Together he and his associate watched the nervous man as he walked up his garden path and vanished into his house. They saw him drawing his curtains, and could imagine him huddling up in his study with a bottle of something strong. Bates' lip twitched into a smile.

"We're going to have to do something about him."

"Just what I was about to say." Walters tore his eyes away from the house, and directed them instead towards the cherry-red car now drawing up alongside them. "And there shouldn't be any problems getting it done."


The beach looked beautiful in the moonlight, or the parts of it that Laura could see did anyway. Admittedly her field of vision did not stretch very far, but it was enough to appreciate the reflection of the cool white light on the surface of the sea, and the way that the deepening darkness clung to the support beams of the pier. A fine white mist rose above the approaching waters, twisting about between the posts. It hung over her, and she could see it resting over Steele as well. It made his hair darker, and made his eyes appear far more serious than she had ever known them to be. Perhaps that wasn't just the light. Perhaps it was the circumstances in which they had found themselves. He smiled at her, the expression just visible amongst the shadows.

"Romantic, isn't it Miss Holt. The soft moonlight, the sea breeze..."

"I appreciate the fact that you've been trying to get closer to me of late, Mr Steele, but this isn't exactly the moonlight encounter I had in mind."

"That you had in mind?" He sounded flattered. "Laura, I didn't realise..."

"Don't get cocky." She sighed. "There are better ways of getting me alone you know."

"Ah, but none so unique. I wanted our first real night together to be something unforgettable. Something in keeping with our lives together so far." His levity faded. "Are you warm enough?"

"Just about. For now." She shivered despite her claim. "It's going to get a lot colder."

"And to think I came to California for the warmth and sunshine."

"Did you?" For some reason this surprised her. He smiled.

"No. I came here to steal jewels. The weather was just a pleasant bonus."

"So it's the weather that keeps you around is it?" She couldn't help smiling as she asked the question, but he didn't smile as he answered it.

"It's one of several factors that influenced my decision."

"The others being?"

"Oh, you know... the apartment, the view from the office window... Murphy and Bernice. Why do you ask?"

"Imminent death makes me reflective." She rested her head against the post. "Don't you find that it fills you with a strange desire to unburden yourself? To come clean and admit to all your secrets?"

"No." He smiled back at her, and the moonlight made the amusement in his eyes all the more pronounced - and all the more infuriating. "But I'd be happy to listen to your confession, if that's what you want."

"I don't have anything to confess." She glared at him. "We're going to die here together. Don't you even feel inclined to tell me your name?"

"No." He frowned at her. "You don't have anything to confess? Are you sure?"

"Quite sure, thankyou." His light laugh made her frown deepen, and yet at the same time chased away her lingering irritation. She tried to sound as though she was cross with him, but didn't think that the performance was terribly convincing. "Moonlight makes you look depraved, you know."

"So I've been told."

"By whom exactly?"

"Fellow moonlit companions." His smirk grew.

"Cat burglars?"

"Perhaps. I've been known to hold certain talented felines amongst my friends in the past. I never asked their professions."

"You're still making jokes." She wasn't sure if that surprised her, pleased her, or disappointed her to some extent. "Aren't you scared?"

"Yes." The forthrightness of his answer startled her, and she looked up sharply. He was gazing at her very steadily, the light of the moon making his eyes appear unearthly. She wondered how she looked in the ghostly light, and then wondered why she should be worried about her appearance now. The mists blew closer and she shivered. A slight frown showed on Steele's face. "Why? Does it surprise you that I should be afraid?"

"No. But it... it does reassure me a little. It... makes you more real. More human."

"Oh." He smiled to himself, turning away slightly, staring out across the water. "I'm glad that you approve. Especially since I was beginning to think I would never win your approval again."

"Don't be stupid." She fell into a silence, unsure quite how to continue the conversation, unaware what, if anything, was the right thing to say. It was Steele who spoke first in the end, turning to look at her with an expression in his eyes so earnest that it surprised her.

"What makes you afraid, Laura? Most of all I mean. What really terrifies you?"

She laughed. "Are you serious?"

"Play along. It helps... pass the time."

"Oh. Well you'd know I suppose." She sighed. "I don't know. I was scared of the dark for a while; and of spiders, when I was very little. And I had a thing about caterpillars once... but that didn't last very long."

He frowned. "Caterpillars?"

"Long story."

"Oh. Anyway, that's not what I meant. I meant what really scares you?"

"Apart from being tied to an abandoned pier, facing certain death from the incoming tide?"

"Apart from that, yes."

"Oh. Well..." She blushed slightly, wishing that she could turn away from him more completely. "I suppose there is one thing."

"Yes?" He sounded interested, and she found herself smiling then, strangely eager to impart this latest thought.

"I guess I'm afraid of you. Of finding out the truth about you, and... and of it not being what I expected."

He frowned. "I don't understand."

"Neither do I. I suppose what worries me is that one day I'm going to find out the truth about all your stories and your false identities - and they're all going to turn out to be lies. That I'll find out you're really just a dreamer escaping from his old life as a merchant banker."

"And that scares you?" He grinned. "I'd have thought you'd prefer it that way. It would mean that your figurehead was in safe hands."

"True. But every girl likes a good story, Mr Steele. And your story is... better than most."

"I'm touched."

"So am I." She glanced across at him, fear in her eyes. "By the tide. I can feel it. It's cold."

"Don't worry, Laura. We're not dead yet." He glanced about, clearly searching once again for a chance of escape, but finding just as little inspiration as he had found before. He struggled again against the ropes, but the cold had begun to sink in, its effects increased by the tightness of his bonds. With the constant decreasing of the temperature he found that he could no longer even feel his hands, let alone use them to any great effect. "We'll think of something."

"It had better be something good." She wanted to stretch out to reach him, so that she could at least touch something warm and reassuring. She couldn't even come close; not even with her feet; and he had even less manoeuvrability. "Talk to me, Steele. About anything."


"Anything that doesn't involve the sea. Or watery deaths." She frowned. "Tell me what you're afraid of."

"Me?" He looked taken aback. "I--"

"I told you. Now it's your turn."

"I suppose that's fair." He was silent for a few moments, his expression showing that he was deep in thought. He wanted to talk to her, to help keep her mind off the situation, but it was hard to know what to say. "It's difficult. I've always been scared of things in the past, but my life is a little different now."

"Were you ever scared of spiders?"

He grinned. "No. Nor caterpillars."

"You're not going to let me forget that, are you. I was very young. Maybe eight or nine-years-old."

"I can't remember what I was scared of then. I can't even remember where I was then."

"Can't or won't?"

He smiled, and even though she was not looking at him she recognised the expression, and could hear it in the way his voice changed. "Maybe a little of both. At any rate spiders and caterpillars have never bothered me, and I certainly was never scared of the dark. The moon and I are very old friends. It's covered more than one of my misdemeanours."

"What about now?" Her voice was gentle, and his heart warmed to hear it.

"Now I suppose I'm scared of things going wrong. Identities failing, disguises misfiring. Or of things working out so well for a change that I'll actually wind up settling down."

"Any chance of that happening some time soon?"

He looked at her askance. "What about Charles?"

"You think I'm planning on continuing my relationship with him, after this?"

"I don't know. I make it a point never to rely too heavily on any assumption."

"You make it a point never to rely on anything. Or anyone."

"Too true, Laura. Too true."

"So what you're really afraid of is being hurt?" He turned to look at her then, startled by the openness in her words and face, worried by the directness of the question. She knew straight away that she wasn't going to get an answer - knew it in the clouds that passed before his eyes. It was too soon for all of that. Much too soon. But maybe one day, he might open up a little more. One day. If they managed to survive the night.

"The tide's getting closer." She had been trying to avoid thinking about it, but her ankles were now so wet that it was impossible. The water was very cold, and her feet were beginning to feel numb.

"I know." He was further forward than she was of course, closer to the incoming waves, the water already beginning to cover his legs. "Nothing like a bracing dip in the ocean to clear the head."

"I'm scared." She blurted it out before she had even thought about what she was saying, and he glanced across at her, smiling gently. At least she thought he was - with the growing nearness of the water came the growth of the darkness of the night, and she could barely see a thing. Somehow that made everything even more frightening still.

"Relax, Laura. If you fight you'll only hurt yourself on the ropes."

"I'm not worried about a few little scrapes and bruises, damn it. I'm worried about drowning in ice cold water. I'm worried about not being able to breathe."

"Hypothermia might well set in before then." He hesitated, still staring towards her. "That wasn't quite as reassuring as it might have been, was it."

"Not really, no." She took a deep breath, as though already trying to prepare herself for the coming lack of oxygen. "Just keep talking to me. And not about hypothermia."

"Tony Curtis." He was staring out to sea now, and did not catch her perplexed frown - not that he would have been able to see it anyway, in the darkness.

"Tony Curtis?!"

"Yes." She thought she heard a frown in his words. "With Kirk Douglas and Janet Leigh, in The Vikings. United Artists, 1958. Curtis was tied to a post to face the oncoming tide, to see if he would survive the night."

"And did he?"

"Of course. He was the hero of the picture. Just as we are the heroes of this one."

"This isn't a film, Mr Steele."

"No." He seemed to be trying to shrug, although whether or not he managed it against the pull of the ropes was unclear in the limited light. "But I still don't intend to bow out before the final scene."

"How did Tony Curtis survive?"

"What? Oh." There was a pause. "A mad old soothsayer kept him going, as I recall..." Another, somewhat longer pause followed. "Actually I don't seem to remember. That's rather unprecedented."

"It must be the cold." Laura had almost lost sight of her legs now beneath the inky black waters, which meant that Steele must be swamped further still. "We should... we should... do something about it."

"Very likely, yes. Huddling together would be nice."

"But impossible." She struggled briefly against the ropes, but found that she hardly had the energy to move. "Oh well. Old age is very overrated, although I always thought it would be nice to find out first-hand."

"You still will, Laura." Steele still sounded confident, which momentarily lifted her spirits despite her exhaustion. "On your seventieth birthday you'll look back on this night and smile about it. Although you'll probably still be embarrassed that you told me about the caterpillars."

"Thanks. I think." She listened to the ominous rush of the tide, and felt the cold fingers of water caress her waist. It seemed to be rising faster than ever now, and already the spray of the slapping waves was hitting her face. "Where will you be then?"

"At seventy?" He sounded horrified. "Probably reminiscing in some isolated resort, and wondering if I can still tango."

"Sounds reasonable." She opened her mouth to say something more, and received a swallow of icy salt water for her pains. "Yuck."

"Try not to swallow it. It'll make you sick."

"Thanks for that. You should run survival courses. How to survive when there's no hope left."

"There's always hope." He spluttered in the midst of the sentence, and had to cough out the final word. Laura saw him, a dark silhouette against the rising night, up to his neck in the water. It was approaching her chest now, giving her a minute more perhaps, before she too was on the verge of submersion. She wished that there was something more for them to say. The cold was eating her up as fast as was the tide, and she wasn't sure that she could have spoken even if she had been able to think of the right words. She saw the dark head turn to look at her, held back at an awkward angle to escape the encroaching water. A flash of some distant light caught his eyes, but it was still too dark to make out their colour. She was sorry for that. She suddenly realised that she wanted to see his eyes again, and his face. She wanted to say that she was sorry for all the things she had said in the past, and she wanted to see the way he smiled whenever they got too close.

"Laura?" The light was flashing nearer, but she couldn't see Steele too well, and wasn't sure that she could be bothered to answer. It was only as the voice came again, louder this time, that she realised it wasn't Steele's voice at all. It was Murphy's, and the light she had seen had multiplied, and grown in intensity. Five or six torch beams shone through the pier above, reflecting off the black water, and showing her that Steele was almost beneath the waves.

"Murphy!" She could hardly speak, and her throat threatened to break. She wasn't sure that she had shouted loudly enough, but when she tried to call again she got a mouthful of water and nothing else. She choked, breathing the water in by mistake. It stung the insides of her chest with its iciness, stealing what little breath she had left. "Murph! Over here!"

"It's okay, Laura." She hadn't heard them approaching, and hadn't felt them untying her, but she could feel herself beginning to float free of the post. Murphy's strong hands were there to receive her, and she let him carry her away.

"Murphy..." She could hardly speak, and he was hushing her into silence, but she battled to find the words. "Steele. Help him. Please."

"They're getting him out now." Murphy's concerns were for her alone, and she could appreciate that - but she wanted to know that Steele was okay.

"Please. You go. I'll be alright."

"Laura..." He was lying her down on the pier, where there were bright blue lights as well as the torch beams, and people with blankets and all manner of warm, dry equipment. She felt wonderful, except for the lingering fears.

"Murphy please. I'll be alright now. I have to know that he's okay."

"Yeah." He squeezed her hand, and she caught a glimpse of him through the harsh, unaccustomed light. She saw his warm eyes, and saw the blue lights shining on his red hair. His smile warmed her more than any blanket could. "I'll go and make sure he's still with us."

"Thanks, Murph." She wasn't sure if she had spoken the words aloud, but his hand on hers tightened momentarily, as if in response. Then he was gone. She struggled to stay awake, wanting to hear the news, wondering just how long it had been since she had last heard Steele's voice. She had to stay awake. The last thing she was sure of before she lost consciousness was the realisation that sleep was too hard to fight.


"How is she?" Murphy had pushed back the curtains around Steele's bed in the full expectation of finding the other man asleep, or at the very least still resting. Instead he found his illustrious 'boss' half-dressed, his bed forgotten and his only recently dried clothes going back on. A vaguely protesting nurse stood beside him, his jacket in one hand, one of his shoes in the other, and an expression of frustration on her pretty face.

"Huh?" Murphy blinked at the question, or perhaps at the unexpected scene. "Who?"

"Laura." Steele began buttoning up his shirt, leaning around to take the jacket from the nurse. "How is she?"

"Oh. Tired. We got to her in time to prevent hypothermia from really settling in, but she's under observation. I haven't had a chance to talk to her properly yet." He moved closer, taking the shoe from the nurse and hurrying her from the room. She protested a little as the curtains swung back in her face, but she didn't try to re-enter the cubicle. Murphy turned back to Steele, slapping the shoe against his chest with a harsh force. "I thought I'd talk to you first. What happened?"

"Charles." Steele sat down a little stiffly, pulling on his shoes and socks, glancing up at Murphy only occasionally. "The man with the close-set eyes who took Laura to lunch earlier today. I was... bothered about one or two little points, so I decided to investigate more fully."

"Oh yeah." Suspicious, Murphy sat down on the bed. "And?"

"He's been dabbling in things. Things he shouldn't have been dabbling in. He's mixed up with the kind of people who don't ask questions before pulling the trigger; people who deal in cement, if you catch my drift."

"Laura's boyfriend is mixed up with the Mob?" Murphy whistled, but Steele merely rose to his feet and slung on his heavily creased jacket over his equally rumpled shirt.

"No," he said with finality. "Not the Mob. I did some checking earlier, before I was interrupted rather rudely by a pair of hired Neanderthals. It seems that Charles has thrown in with a pair of crooked politicians, who I assume were responsible for the 'accident' suffered by your friend Hanbrook."

"What?" Murphy was incredulous. "You think a couple of politicians were mixed up in the death of James Hanbrook? If you're right..."

"I am right, Murphy. Whilst I perhaps don't have your experience on the detecting front, I can assure you that I have more than a passing knowledge of the world of corrupt politics. I discovered that your friend Hanbrook - and dear nephew Charles apparently - were bankrolling the various activities of a pair of would-be political big shots. From what I heard earlier I think we can assume that Charles got in over his head; but either way he's still mixed up in it."

"We should tell this to the police." Murphy was shaking his head, either amazed at this development, or at the fact that Steele had managed to uncover it alone. The other man raised an eyebrow.

"Must we? I had other things in mind."

"We do things by the book in this agency, Mr Steele." Murphy rose to his feet, using his stronger frame in an attempt to force seniority of position. Steele favoured him with a tight, impatient smile.

"Very well Mr Michaels, you can do things by the book. Your book. In the meantime I plan on doing things by my book, which requires me to be somewhere else for a while." He clapped the American on both shoulders. "Look after Laura for me, there's a good chap."

"You should be in bed." It was a last-ditch attempt to stop him, but it had no more effect than the nurse's earlier worries. This time Steele's smile had more warmth.

"I'm touched by your concerns, Murphy, but think of it this way. We both know that the police, however interested they might be in all of this, are going to need rather more than some scrappy bits of evidence that I acquired by illegal means - and that I subsequently lost again anyway. But if you're really all that worried, I do promise to come back in one piece."

"You really care about her, don't you." It wasn't much of a revelation, but it was becoming clearer to Murphy all of the time. He wasn't sure how he felt, although he had an idea that Laura wasn't going to see him as competition, should this snappily-dressed shyster make his intentions any more plain than they already were. Steele smiled.

"I can assure you that I don't risk my life for everybody I nearly get drowned with. I don't appreciate seeing my friends getting hurt by con-men with dishonourable intentions."

"Good." Murphy moved a little closer. "Then you'll understand how I feel about you."

"Touché, Mr Michaels." Steele pushed aside the curtains. "I'll see you later."

"Yeah." Murphy watched him go, wondering at the lingering impression of elegance despite the rumpled clothing and clear signs of encroaching exhaustion. It was something he would never have admitted aloud, but he had a feeling, as he watched the proud and distinguished figure depart, that had he ever imagined the fictitious figure of Remington Steele in the flesh, he would probably have looked very like the man now vanishing through the hospital doors.

"Mr Michaels?" The nurse who had been trying to persuade Steele not to leave had appeared as if by magic at Murphy's left elbow. He glanced down at her.


"Miss Holt is asking to see you."

"Oh." Murphy took one final look at the departing Steele, then turned around and headed off in search of his old friend. He knew what her first question was going to be, and he hoped that he could think of an answer. He couldn't tell her the truth, or she would be out of her hospital bed before he could finish saying the words; and that he couldn't allow. This was one investigation that Remington Steele was going to have to handle alone.


Charles' cherry-red car stood in the driveway of his home, gleaming in the moonlight and showing off a new hot wax shine. It was empty, but the driver's window was open, suggesting that it was not being left alone for long. Steele opened the door and slid behind the wheel, checking the glove compartment, looking under the seats, searching for anything that might help him prove what he already knew. The car was clean. He could find nothing inside it bar a single sweet wrapper, which didn't tell him anything except that the chauffeur enjoyed soft centred chocolates. Steele tucked the wrapper into the pocket of his jacket, wincing as the movement caused him to notice the damage done to the beautifully tailored tuxedo. Sweet wrappers might not be much of a clue, but he couldn't shake the idea that if he handed this one to Laura she would solve the case in an instant. She was like that, and it was one of the reasons why he loved her so much. He frowned at that thought, and clambered back out of the car with a troubled look on his face. Did he really love her? Great. As if his life wasn't complicated enough.

"Can I help you sir?" The voice of somebody who sounded very chauffeur-like disturbed Steele's concentration, and he turned. A tall, uniformed man stood before him, gun in one hand, peaked cap in the other. He was smiling in a rather forced manner. "I could call the police if you'd like. Perhaps they could help you find whatever it is you're looking for?"

"I don't think your boss would appreciate that." Steele looked about. "Where is he? In the house?"

"That's none of your business." The gun moved closer to Steele's chest. "My job is to look after security, and I don't think you want to make me show how good I am at that."

"No, I don't think I do." Steele grinned suddenly, staring over the gangling chauffeur's shoulder. "Ah ha! Charlie boy. Good of you to come out to see me."

"Mr Evans?" The chauffeur turned his head. "I found this man--" He broke off, for he could see no sign of his employer anywhere in the driveway. Alarms bells rang in his head.

"Dreadfully sorry old chap." Lashing out with one arm, Steele knocked the gun from the other man's hand, sending it spinning away across the gravel. To his surprise the chauffeur let out a whimper, and backed away with his hands thrown up in front of his face.

"Don't hit me!" He sounded terrified. Steele blinked.

"I beg your pardon?"

"I said don't hit me. I'm only doing my job. Mr Evans said that I had to keep a look out for intruders, but this really isn't my scene. I'm just a chauffeur."

"Of course you are, dear chap. Of course you are." Steele smiled at him, well aware that his usual charming sophistication was not quite as polished as it should be tonight. "Make yourself scarce and we'll say no more about it."

"Yeah." The chauffeur nodded hard. "Bye." With that he ran off across the lawn, presumably heading for his own abode. Steele watched him go, then straightened the collar of his much-abused shirt and set off towards the house. There was a light on in the porch, and he rapped hard on the front door. Almost immediately he heard noises on the other side, and the sound of a chain being drawn back.

"What is it this time Raymond?" The voice was irritable. Steele stepped off the porch, sliding back into the shadows just beyond the reach of the low wattage bulb. He saw the door open, and the smoking-jacketed form of Charles Evans standing framed in the hallway light. A burst of fury fuelled his already powerful anger at the sight of this man, relaxing in comfort after having just left his girlfriend to die. With an oath the phoney detective started forward.

"Charles! Buddy. Friend. Old pal." His hands were seizing the other man by the shoulders before Charles had a chance to react. "How are you? How are you keeping? Have you been having a good evening?"

"You." Charles began to look about in horror, apparently expecting Steele to have brought reinforcements with him. "What's going on? I thought you were--"

"Dead?" The false note of joviality in Steele's voice was slipping. "I very nearly was, thanks to you. Somebody else damn nearly died this evening as well. I thought you might like to know that she's alright. I can see your obvious concern, and I know how heavily it must all have been weighing on your mind." He flicked one silken lapel of the smoking jacket. "Is that brandy I can smell? Expensive was it? Is it helping you to drown your desperate sorrow over the near loss of your beloved Miss Holt?"

"Steele, listen to me." Charles had gone very pale. "I never meant to hurt Laura. I love her, really I do. Honestly. I - I would never have--"

"Hurt her?" Steele pushed him, knocking him back into the doorframe. "No, you didn't hurt her. You just tied her to a post and left her to drown. Do you know what's it's like to wait on a beach and watch the waves coming in to get you? Feeling their icy touch on your legs, your chest, your chin?" His face was close to that of the other man now, and he was staring into a pair of terrified eyes. "Perhaps we should take a little trip down to the pier, and you can find out for yourself."

"No!" Panic-stricken Charles struggled, but could not break free. Steele heard the expensive material of the smoking jacket give way a little under the force of his grip, and he held on a little tighter. "Listen, I - I'll talk. I'll tell you everything. I never wanted to hurt Laura, I swear. I had no idea they'd got hold of you, and - and... I didn't want--"

"Save me the bleeding heart confessions." Steele's soft voice had taken on a hard edge, and the Irish inflection was stronger than ever. "Just tell me everything about George Bates and Norman Walters. And I mean everything. I know all about your uncle's little investments in their private fund."

"You do?" Charles looked like a startled rabbit caught in the headlights of a juggernaut. "That's impossible. You can't--"

"Can't I? Why do you suppose they decided to send me for that little tethered paddle?" Steele pulled the other man closer still. "Now talk, before I forget that I'm a gentleman, and end up showing you a little of the man I used to be."

"Yes. Yes, okay. I - I'll talk." Charles took a deep breath, relieved to have been given this chance to escape the apparent threat of physical injury. "Bates and Walters are--" He broke off. Steele gave him a hearty shake.

"What? Bates and Walters are what?" There was no answer, and instead the lawyer's eyes rolled back into his skull. Steele loosened his grip a little, staring at the figure before him. Somewhere on the periphery of his hearing came the sound of a set of squealing tyres. He whirled about, just in time to see the doorframe above his head explode in a burst of jagged splinters as a heavy calibre bullet took the wood apart. Seconds later he saw a car racing away down the road. A long, shaky breath escaped him.

"Charles?" He turned back to the other man, now slumped on the floor. Steele could see the blood now, pouring from a hole right above the lawyer's heart. He could tell at a glance that his star witness was dead, and he scowled. "Oh great. Just typical." With a hand that showed more compassion than he was willing to admit to having felt, he reached out and closed the other man's eyes. Then he rose to his feet, pulled off his jacket, and dropped it over the dead man's head. There didn't seem to be anything else that he could do; and given the silence that still surrounded him, none of Charles' neighbours had been in any way inconvenienced by the bullets. A professional job then, which didn't surprise him. He stared down at the slumped form one final time, muttered a grudging farewell, and then turned around and wandered back off into the moonlight. He needed to find a telephone. There were people he needed to call.


The driveway to Charles Evans' house was awash with the lights of police cars, and in the near daylight brightness, Remington Steele looked even more exhausted than he had at the hospital. Murphy made his way between the parked cars and the ever-ominous coroner's van, finally coming to a halt by the side of his sleepy-looking 'boss'. Steele was sitting on the rear seat of a police car, the doors open so that he could still take a reasonably active part in the goings-on around him. A young uniformed officer was asking him questions, writing down the answers in a brand new notebook. She looked up as Murphy approached.

"I'm sorry sir, but you can't come over here. This is a crime scene."

"Yeah, I know." He flashed his ID at her. "Mr Steele here is my..." He nearly winced at the word, "my boss. I'd like a word with him if that's okay."

"Oh." She shut her notebook with a snap. "It's okay. I've finished with him anyway. Don't leave town, Mr Steele. Somebody will be wanting to talk to you sometime soon."

"Yes, of course." Both men watched her as she walked away, before Steele glanced up at the annoyingly wide-awake figure of his associate.

"How's Laura?"

"Awake. Asking for you. Annoyed because I wouldn't let her come after you." Murphy stared towards the house, where he could just see a zippered black bag being loaded onto a gurney. "What happened?"

"I told you what happened when I called. Somebody shot him, just as he was going to tell me all about his uncle's business sideline." Steele rubbed his eyes, all pretence at alertness and sophistication now dropped. "I want to go home, have a long hot shower, and then forget to wake up for a fortnight."

"I'll give you a lift back." Murphy glanced about. "Unless Fred's here?"

"Fred? No, I haven't seen him since earlier today. I gave him the day off." Steele successfully stifled a yawn, then rose to his feet. His ruined tuxedo looked even worse than he did, which was, thought Murphy, definitely saying something. "At least I think I did." He sighed. "We should get back to the office. We have to find out who killed Charles."

"I think it's a fair bet who killed him. According to the police, when they traced the anonymous tip off telling them that you and Laura were at the pier, they found it had come from this address. Charles called them. Call it guilt or conscience or whatever - but I don't think his heart was really in the corruption game. His crooked politicians couldn't count on him, so they thought they'd get rid of him - just like they got rid of his uncle."

"No." Steele shook his head. "They wouldn't have killed Hanbrook. They must have realised that that would have led to investigations into his assets. If it hadn't been for his death, we'd never have caught on to Bates and Walters. They'd have been fools to have brought that down on themselves."

"That's actually a pretty good point." Murphy had to admire the man's various trains of thought. He genuinely was beginning to show some natural aptitude for detective work - when he wasn't screwing it all up.

"Of course it's a good point." Steele looked as though he felt that his talents in investigation were beyond question. Time, the American thought wryly, to stop him reading his own press. "That's why we've got to find out who did kill Hanbrook. We should... detect something."

"Tonight? No chance." Murphy took the other man's arm and began to lead him through the maze of official vehicles, heading for where his own car was parked by the kerb. "You need some sleep."

"I want to see Laura."

"Not tonight Josephine." Steele glanced up at him, and he smiled. "You're not the only one who can quote from the movies."

"Jack Lemmon to Tony Curtis, Some Like It Hot." Steele yawned. "United Artists, 1959. Directed by Billy Wilder of course."

"My dad took me to see it at the local cinema." Murphy guided Steele onto the front passenger seat, and then went around to climb behind the wheel. "My mother hit the roof. She thought I was too young."

"You know..." Steele was leaning against the window, looking more asleep than awake. "Sometimes, Murphy, you manage to appear almost human."

"You flatterer you." Starting the engine, Murphy glanced across at his companion. "Where'd you see it? Sing Sing?"

"Very funny." The words were almost indistinct. There might have been another few sentences that followed on, but all Murphy could catch was a half-mumbled anecdote about a box-office attendant with a walrus moustache. He smiled to himself as he turned the car around and headed towards Steele's apartment. Before he had made the first hundred yards, his famed 'boss' was fast asleep. Murphy smiled at him.

"You know..." he paraphrased blithely, his amusement showing in his eyes, "sometimes, Mr Steele, you manage to appear almost human."


"I can't believe you went off to confront Charles without me." Laura's voice was filled with the familiar sounds of her indignation. Murphy, in the outer office with Bernice, could hear it plainly. He smiled. Just lately he seemed to be hearing such indignation on a fairly regular basis. Whatever the reason for it, the cause was invariably Steele. He half-wondered if he should go and join in, but he decided to leave them to it. A moment later Steele's own voice cut in, somehow mixing a similar indignation with an air of complete calm.

"You nearly died. You needed your sleep."

"And you didn't?"

"Ah." In his office, the incorrigible fraudster smiled sweetly at his companion, whilst still looking as shifty as ever. "That's different. I was very angry."

"So was I, especially when I found out you'd gone off on your own." She looked sulky. "Still, as usual you seem to have pieced together most of the case for me."

"What can I say, Laura? My genius never fails to impress." He frowned. "What did I piece together this time?"

"One or two things. From what you told Murphy last night I made one or two assumptions, and I sent the police to Hanbrook's office."

"And did they discover plenty of damning evidence?"

"No. They discovered a chocolate box full of money." Steele seemed about to say something, but she held up her hands for silence. "I told them we didn't know anything about it."


"It was counterfeit. Very well made, but counterfeit nonetheless. I'm assuming you didn't look at it too closely, or no doubt you'd have spotted that straight away. Something tells me you're probably an expert."

"Well..." He shrugged, trying and failing to look modest. "I may have a little experience in the field." He held up a thumb and forefinger, close together, as though to indicate. Laura rolled her eyes.

"You do surprise me. Anyway, I think we can assume that the people who gave you that tip-off to search the office wanted to blow the lid off Hanbrook's unsavoury alliances; probably because they wanted to take his place in the crooked politics game. The police agree with me, and they're checking out a few leads within the local organised crime circuit."

"The cigarette girl was a mobster?" Steele whistled. "Certainly an improvement on Al Pacino. Shame about the funny money though."

"Isn't it." She didn't sound terribly sympathetic.

"Think they'd let me keep it as a souvenir?" Her expression warned him not even to suggest it, and he put on a hopeful expression. "Maybe some of it? A hundred dollars?"

She sighed. "Moving swiftly on... They picked up Raymond, Charles' chauffeur. He was a plant. I thought there was something funny about him. Anyway, he's confessed to having been hired by Bates and Walters. He hasn't admitted to killing Charles yet, but it's probably just a matter of time."

"That shrinking violet? I wouldn't have thought he could hurt a fly. He ran for his life when I took his gun away earlier."

"He has a rap sheet a mile long, all violent crimes." She frowned at him. "You were lucky. Either that or he didn't think it was worth arguing over somebody who was already living on borrowed time."

"Hmm. Yes. About that..." He put his hand on her shoulder. "Murphy says that he and the police were only able to rescue us thanks to a tip-off from Charles. It turns out that he perhaps wasn't quite as bad as I might have thought."

"I know." She smiled gratefully at him for a moment, and put her hand on top of his. "Thanks. But the truth is that, even if he did have a conscience, he was far from being my ideal lifetime companion. I'm okay about what happened."

He looked closely at her. "Sure?"

"Sure." She shrugged. "He was pretty heavily mixed up in his uncle's business dealings, and probably had been from the start. The police think that Hanbrook was killed by whoever tried to hire you."

"They of the counterfeit cash in the chocolate box?" She could tell that he loved that particular twist in the tale, and she had to smile.

"The very same."

"Then I suppose it's all over." Steele looked disappointed. "And we didn't even get to be there for the kill. I'm disappointed in you Laura. Where's the heroic chase after the perpetrators? The last desperate struggle against the gun-toting madman? It's supposed to be our piéce de resistance. Our coup de grace, as it were. It's the conclusion of our investigation, the bit where we--"

"Hard luck." She relented a little. "But they haven't arrested either Bates or Walters yet, so there's still a chance for you to play the hero." Reaching towards him, she patted his hand. "In the meantime I'll let you make the coffee instead."

"You're all heart." He frowned. "If I could recap for just a moment..."


"You sent the police to Hanbrook's office, with no evidence to back you up, and even though they didn't find anything, they still believe you?"

"Well there is Raymond, and Charles' murder."

"True. But I could have gone to them with the tip-off, and the chocolate box, and neither one of us would ever have needed to have got our feet wet."

"Very likely." She smiled at him. "You're learning."

"Oh." He sighed. "Never quickly enough, it seems."

"You'll pick it up. Probably. Eventually." She hid a smile, and he looked vaguely insulted.

"You know, Miss Holt, there are times when I suspect that you have rather a low opinion of me."

"Only now and then, Mr Steele. Only now and then."

"And are we currently in one of the nows, or one of the thens? Only somewhere there's a moonlit night with our name on it. Something a little less fraught than the last occasion." Somehow he had contrived to sneak his arms around her, and she found herself settling into his embrace. Not now, she told herself determinedly. No more complications... Somehow her heart didn't seem to be agreeing with her rather more sensible head. A knock at the door saved her and she smiled, caught between disappointment and relief.

"Just coming."

"But very slowly." He clung on, and she had to forcibly extricate herself from his arms.

"Mr Steele..."

"It's Murphy. He's good at waiting. And so's Bernice."

"Mr Steele..."

"And the clients don't mind. Remington Steele is worth waiting for."

"Some day I may agree with that." She finally managed to make her way to the door, and quickly straightened her clothes. "And should I ever decide to end the waiting, I'll get back to you." He scowled and she grinned, then pulled open the door. Murphy stood before her, a slightly strained expression on his face.

"Laura." He looked past her, seeing Steele standing beside his desk. "Mr Steele..."

"Murphy." Steele took a few steps forward, business front once more in place. Murphy never used the Mister prefix unless there were other people present who were not a part of their immediate circle. His eyes strayed past the unusually tense detective. There was a dark shape pressed against his head. Laura had noticed it too.

"Er..." She seemed to be considering a move, but with a sudden push from behind Murphy stumbled quickly into the room. Bernice followed on, fear mixed with outrage in her eyes. Behind them, sauntering as confidently and as casually as ever, came Walters and Bates. They were both carrying guns, and they surveyed the little group with evident satisfaction.

"Are we all here?" Walters was positively beaming. "Jolly good. Then we can begin."


"It's good to see you looking so healthy." After herding Murphy and Bernice across to the far side of the room, Bates sat down on the edge of the desk in order to confront Steele and Laura. Walters hovered by the door, drawing it closed behind them.

"Thankyou." Attempting to keep the tone of the conversation as light as he could, for as long as was possible, Steele tried on a polite smile. Both men looked as though they had not had a chance to shave or change their clothes that morning, and now that he himself was fully refreshed, and once again dressed in his tailor-made fineries, he felt decidedly superior. It gave him an upper hand of the kind that he had been able to exploit more than once in the past. "You're looking quite well yourselves."

"Spare us the compliments." Walters lit a cigar, sending clouds of foul-smelling black smoke up into the air. Bernice twitched, as though anxious to make a dash for the air freshener. "We're not here to be nice to you."

"Then why are you here?" Folding her arms and trying to look tall and imposing, Laura fixed him with her best official glare. "You can't get away you know. The police are on to you."

"Yeah. We'd guessed." Biting the end of a cigar of his own, Bates spat into the wastepaper bin, and then pointed his gun around the room almost as an afterthought. "They're swarming all over the place. We can kiss goodbye to our careers thanks to you lot."

"You did kind of have a hand in that yourself," Murphy told him dryly. Bates glared.

"Shut up Ginger." He shook his head. "Damn Hanbrook and his accident. If it hadn't been for that we'd never have been caught."

"And we're supposed to be sorry for you?" Laura shook her head and gestured at the telephone. "Let me call the police. If you give yourselves up it'll be a lot easier on both of you."

"We're not going to give ourselves up." Walters pushed her into the nearest chair. "Now shut up. If we've got any talking to do, we'll do it to the boss, not the staff." He stared across at Steele. "And speaking of which, what's got you so quiet all of a sudden. You hardly shut up before."

"Perhaps I haven't got anything to say." Steele waved an arm dismissively. "But Miss Holt is right. Running from the police never did anybody any good, and hiding here isn't going to help you either. Somebody is going to find you eventually."

"We've got hostages." Bates aimed his gun squarely at Laura, now sitting barely a foot away from him. "Remember?"

"Hostages aren't going to do you any good. I may be a minor celebrity in these parts, but don't think that the authorities will give you what you want just because you have my staff and I. I rather think the opposite will be the case. You'll end up being shot by a police marksman, and this case will close more quickly than we'd anticipated."

"You think you're smart, don't you." Walters turned to face him, his gun wavering between Steele, Murphy and Bernice. "Well you're not. You don't know the half of it. Neither do the police. You people, you think Hanbrook was alone in what he did? You think other businessmen in this city aren't paying off politicians, or twisting and turning laws and rules to suit them?"

"Fortunately they're not all murdering people." Steele let his eyes drift towards Murphy, who was watching everything with his quiet, steady sense of calm. "One of your rivals put me on your trail. I assume somebody in a similar line was behind the attempts on Hanbrook's life - the reason why he hired this agency in the first place?"

"Something like that." Bates frowned. "Just how much do you know?"

"Er..." He hesitated, looking towards Laura. "This and that. Basic deduction, hey Miss Holt? Pure logic, pure elementary. We're good at that here."

"I think what Mr Steele is trying to say is that we don't need the evidence he found in Hanbrook's office in order to convict you. You thought that you were protecting yourselves by hiding that, and trying to get rid of Mr Steele, but in actual fact you overlooked one important factor."

"Did we." Walters sounded decidedly uninterested. "You talk too much. Nearly as much as him." He gestured at Steele in indication. "That's not healthy. I think I'm going to have to kill you."

"You don't want to do that." Halfway to his feet, Murphy froze as Bates' gun turned to face him. As it moved away from Laura, its previous target, the real head of the agency began to make a similar move. The gun turned back to face her, and then, as though Bates had decided upon a safer alternative, the weapon spun suddenly to face Bernice. She blanched, and both Laura and Murphy slowly relaxed. Bates grinned.

"That's more sensible." He glanced back at Steele. "You were saying?"

"I--" He broke off. "You didn't come here to discuss the case. Why are you here?"

"Very astute of you Steele. We're not here to discuss the case." Walters puffed smoke at him. "We're here because we want to get out of the country, and you're our best bet to accomplish that. As well as having money to burn you also must have a lot of contacts. We want a foolproof escape route out of the States, preferably by air. And we want money. Lots of it. We've been kept rather well by Hanbrook over the years, and we've come to be accustomed to it. Fifty thousand apiece should cover it for now. Plus flight expenses of course."

"And if I don't comply?" He didn't really need to ask, but anything was better than mindlessly saying nothing. Bates smiled.

"We start shooting. Her first." He nodded at Laura, who glowered back at him as though unafraid. "Then Ginger, then the girl." He mimed shooting Bernice, who was glowering nearly as fiercely as Laura. "Then we shoot you, Mr Steele; and then we take the money anyway, and arrange our own transport. Really it's a no lose situation for us."

"And a no win one for us. You have no intention of letting us get away whatever we agree to." Laura looked up at Steele, wondering why he was being so reserved, and leaving the defiance to her and the others. "No deal."

"Don't be too hasty, Laura." Holding up his hands to quell her brewing arguments, Steele rubbed thoughtfully at his chin. "These gentlemen are in need of our assistance, and I see no reason why we shouldn't comply. After all, their unfortunate situation is somewhat due to our interference."

"And that's a bad thing?" Laura wasn't sure what he was up to, but given his previous record she wasn't sure that she wanted to let him continue. "Mr Steele--"

"Now now now." He frowned at her as though in mild reprimand. "Mr Bates, Mr Walters... even though you're so unwilling to listen to reason, I am prepared to help you escape the country. I'm not without experience in this field, and I think that I can point you in the right direction."

"A word, if you would Mr Steele?" Laura was speaking through clenched teeth. Steele frowned at her again, this time as though to impart some secret meaning. She relented a little, and exchanged a look with Murphy. He shrugged.

"It's quite alright, Miss Holt. I can assure you that I don't intend doing anything rash." Steele straightened the knot of his tie, and then clasped both hands behind his back, striking a pose that could generally be called upon to impress most of 'his' clients. "If you'll come with me gentlemen, I can take you to people who can help you. We can have you out of the country in less than an hour."

"If we come with you." Bates was smirking. "Yeah. If that's your great plan, Steele, you're not the man your press makes you out to be."

"I really don't understand what you're--"

"Leave it." Bates waved his gun at the three other members of the agency. "And what happens to them when we're all off scouring the city for your contacts? They'll have the police after us before we make three blocks. Try again."

"They wouldn't call the police. They'd have no reason to want to save me from you."

"Oh no. They'd be quite happy to let a pair of known killers go off with their boss."

Steele raised an ironic eyebrow. "You might be surprised."

"I doubt it." Walters made a big show of checking the clip in his handgun, and then pointing it, slowly and deliberately, at Steele's head. "Now. We want your money, we want a flight out of the country, and we want them very, very quickly. Is there anything that you don't understand?"

"Yes." Laura, who had been watching the exchange very carefully, glanced up when it began to appear as though Steele's reservoir of ideas was drying up. Trying to lead Bates and Walters away from the office had been a good plan, but clearly it was not going to work - and Laura's job was to come in when Steele lost his way, providing new ideas to keep things flowing. "I don't understand how James Hanbrook's car can have gone off the road. And there's something else I don't understand too. When we last met, you had a chauffeur sitting on the beach waiting for you. Charles had a chauffeur. So why didn't Hanbrook have somebody driving him that night?"

"His chauffeur wasn't in the crash?" Bates was frowning, lines of suspicion crossing his brow. Laura seemed to read something in his look, and she shook her head.

"Hanbrook's body was found in the driving seat. Or at least a body thought to be Hanbrook's was found in the driving seat. Certain physical factors matched his description - but then several other people might match that description as well - especially after an inferno like the one that car became after the crash."

"Are you saying that Hanbrook didn't die in that crash?" Walters' tone of voice was dangerous, but Laura didn't seem too perturbed. Instead she allowed herself a brisk smile.

"Who stood most to gain from his death? His kids, who nobody knows anything about? His nephew, who has enough money of his own, plus a steady income from his work as a lawyer? You? Nobody really wins. You certainly don't, since it was his death that made your dealings known to us. Mr Steele made that deduction some time ago, but it was only recently that he made the final connections."

"I did indeed." Having had plenty of practice by now, Steele was getting good at playing along in these moments, when Laura's own conclusions were passed off as his own. "Carry on Miss Holt. As usual you tell the story so much better than I."

She nodded at him. "Thankyou sir." Turning back to Bates and Walters, who were now watching her with a reluctant kind of interest, she continued. "Mr Steele's - if I may say so, sir - brilliant deduction was that only one person truly benefited from Mr Hanbrook's death. Here we have a man who had allied himself with the sort of people that he thought he could control, but which he subsequently began to realise were not under his control at all. The attempts on his life, which he hired Mr Steele to investigate, proved to him that his involvement with you had angered certain other business interests within the city, and that scared him. He wanted out."

"He said as much." Grudging respect showed in Walters' eyes as he looked at Steele. "It was clever of you to pick up on that, Mr Steele."

"It's the way that we work in this business." Steele sounded as though it were a minor feat for his legendarily great brain. Bates scowled.

"So what else did you figure out?"

"Ah well..." Steele glanced, as ever, to Laura for support. "If you would, Miss Holt?"

"As you wish, Mr Steele." They shared a smile. "Mr Hanbrook decided that the best way to end his involvement with you, since there was no way you were going to let him end it--"

"Damn right," interjected Bates. Laura frowned at him.

"Yes. Well, there was only one way for him to proceed, and that was to allow somebody to 'discover' what was going on within his firm. He knew that his death would cause questions to be asked, and that there would have to be audits and other investigations. To be sure of that, he even hired a girl to approach Mr Steele secretly, and to pretend to be involved in the criminal underworld, so as to interest him further in the case. It was when Mr Steele realised that the girl was a plant that he managed to make the breakthrough on the case. Isn't that right Mr Steele?"

"Of course, Miss Holt. Of course." In the corner Murphy rolled his eyes. Bernice was watching closely, enjoying the part of the investigation that she usually missed. "That was definitely one of my most important breakthroughs yet."

"Quite. Because it pointed you, did it not, to the clear and obvious conclusion that James Hanbrook, far from being dead in a car crash, was actually very much alive. In actual fact he was hiding with his nephew, who unintentionally revealed his hand in the plot by his use of an alias during his dealings with this firm. He hoped to keep himself out of the limelight in case of closer investigations, which might have led to the finger being pointed at him, should his uncle's plan fail."

"Hanbrook's alive?" Sinking onto the table edge, Walters shook his head in obvious disbelief. "I'm going to kill him." He pointed his gun at Steele once again. "Where is he Steele? Where are you hiding him?"

"Me?" Steele looked indignant. "I'm not hiding him."

"But you do know where he is, Mr Steele." Laura was looking meaningfully in his direction. "You told me earlier, remember?"

"Ah yes. Of course I did. Yes, silly of me to forget." His eyes were telling her to finish the tale before Walters decided to pull the trigger, but Laura spun it out a little longer.

"Wouldn't you like to tell this part of the tale, Mr Steele? It is one of your better deductions."

"No no. I think we'd all be quite happy to let you finish the narrative, Miss Holt. It's a job that suits you so very well."

"Isn't it just." She turned about once again to face her audience, which now included an enraptured Bernice and a gently nodding Murphy. Clearly he was following her theories, and anticipating her final conclusions. "Mr Steele believes that James Hanbrook is living at his nephew's house. After all, only a handful of people know of that family connection. He's probably getting nervous, with all the police presence in the area right now, but he doesn't have anywhere else to go until the investigations have died down. Right Mr Steele?"

"Right." He nodded, filled with confidence. "So what's the plan? Might I suggest a glorious showdown, or fearsome gun battles at dawn?"

"It's noon," Murphy couldn't help pointing out, never one to miss a chance at bringing Steele down a peg or two. His 'boss' declined to take any notice of the jibe. Bates and Walters both rose to their feet.

"Neither." Walters gestured with his gun, making Laura back away to where Murphy and Bernice were seated. "If Hanbrook is still alive, we don't need you lot. We can get the money from him, and our revenge at the same time." He raised his gun, this time pressing the cold end right into Steele's forehead. "Which means that the four of you are now surplus to requirements."

"I guess it's goodbye then." Steele sounded admirably calm, although that could have been, Laura thought later, because he was expecting her to do something. In the event it was Murphy who made the first move - but not, naturally enough, to protect Steele. At the same moment that Walters was preparing to execute the con-man, Bates pointed his own gun at Bernice. The secretary froze in momentary shock, and Murphy, ducking low in the sort of manoeuvre that might have made him open to all kinds of offers from sports bodies, had he performed it in public, leapt forward to tackle the crooked politician. Bates let out a yell, his gun went off, and the twosome crashed together to the floor. Walters spun, staring in amazement, and turned his gun to shoot at Murphy. Steele, reacting more through instinct than thought, jumped at him immediately, and the pair fell against the desk, rolling to the floor in a tangle of limbs and furniture. Bates meanwhile was getting the upper hand, preparing to turn his gun on Murphy, when Laura hurled herself into the affray. She crashed into Bates and Murphy, hitting them both with equal force, and sending them crashing to the ground once again. Sandwiched between two determined detectives, Bates was soon subdued, although it took a while for the threesome to extricate themselves from each others entangled extremities. Murphy helped Laura to her feet whilst holding Bates at bay with his own gun. She smiled at him, looking breathless.

"Nice moves."

"Nice moves yourself." His eyes drifted towards Steele. "Er... don't you think we should help our great leader?"

"Hmm?" She glanced at the still-battling figurehead, currently pinioned by the altogether more powerful Walters. The larger man was banging Steele's head against the floor, clearly enjoying his task. "I see what you mean."

"Don't... worry... about... me... Laura." With a twist that he might have learnt in any number of situations during his lifetime, Steele slipped from Walters' grasp, flipping the bigger man onto his back and making a wild grab for the gun. He missed, and found himself slammed against the wall. "On the other hand though..."

"Hey!" Snatching Bates' gun from Murphy's hands, Laura pointed it at the ceiling and unleashed a volley of shots. Part of the ceiling caved in on her head, showering her with plaster. She thought guiltily of the offices on the floor above, and wondered what they must be thinking. Her manoeuvre had done the trick though, for Walters froze. "Thankyou." She gestured with the gun. "Now get over here with your friend."

"Thankyou Miss Holt. Much obliged." Straightening his suit as though to remove each and every tiny wrinkle, Steele ran a hand through his almost permanently immaculate hair, and flashed his associate a breathless grin.

"My pleasure Mr Steele." She looked across at Bernice. "How about calling the police?"

"That would be my pleasure." Heading for the telephone Bernice gave Bates and Walters a wide berth. Murphy retrieved the second gun to give Laura some back up, and Steele, surveying all and sundry with a proprietary air, smiled broadly at everyone.

"Now that's more like it. An altogether more satisfying conclusion." He rubbed his hands together and settled himself in the comfortable leather chair beside the desk. "Anybody feel like a cup of tea?"


In Remington Steele's office the lights were turned down low. Laura was sitting in Steele's chair, staring at the piles of paperwork that he liked to pretend to be responsible for. They were for show alone, since she would never have trusted him with the real files - and he certainly wasn't interested in taking them. Steele played with his pens and paper whenever there were clients to perform in front of. The rest of the time he used such things only for doing the crossword, or for drawing pictures. Responsibility was a disease he was determined not to catch. Laura smiled at the thought, and took a sip of her tea. Steele had made it which, quite apart from being a first, made a great difference to the taste. Drinking it like this she could see why he liked it so much.

"I think that police lieutenant looked rather impressed with the way we handled Bates and Walters, don't you?" Sitting on the edge of the desk just beside her Steele seemed positively ebullient. He was practically bouncing up and down, his natural energy turned up to full. Laura was finding the tea relaxing, but apparently it did not have the same effect on him.

"He certainly congratulated you often enough." She drank some more tea, remembering back to the days when she had been the one taking the credit, albeit only in place for the 'absent' Mr Steele. "But it was a satisfying conclusion."

"It was indeed. You know, sometimes I find myself thinking that you have a natural predilection for this kind of work. A talent. You should use it."

"Become a private investigator you mean?"

"Oh, I don't know that you should go that far necessarily..." He dodged a playful swat, then abruptly turned serious. "You deserve more credit."

"Oh but Mr Steele - you do so enjoy taking the bows."

"I'm sure that you would too, if you'd let yourself try it once or twice."

"And admit that you're a fake?" She shook her head. "No thanks. I'm not quite ready for any further complications in my life."

"Then let me uncomplicate a few matters." He took the cup from her hand and slid an arm around her neck. A second arm followed it and she opened her mouth to protest - only to break off rather sharply. Instead of attempting to hug her, as she had assumed he would, he began to massage the base of her neck, moving his fingers with surprising skill and effect. She let out a long, powerful breath.

"That feels so good..."

"I know." He carried on for a few minutes, before pausing suddenly. Laura's drooping eyelids snapped open again.

"Why did you stop?"

"I thought that I might be complicating rather more than I was uncomplicating."

"You are." She rested her head against his shoulder. "But I don't mind."

"You don't mind now, no. You might in a few hours." He winced. "I have got to spend less time with you, Miss Holt. I fear I may be developing a conscience."

"You have my sympathies." She had to laugh then, and he joined her for a few minutes before the laughter ran itself out. The twosome found themselves staring at each other quite intently, and Laura began to lean forward, very slowly, as though to make lip contact. She caught herself just in time.

"I should be going."

"So soon?"

"I think it's for the best, don't you?" She sighed. Why was life never simple? "I have a meeting to get to."

"Of course." He nodded his understanding. "One thing, though, if I may?"

"You may."

He nodded. "Thankyou. I was wondering how I came to know that Hanbrook wasn't really dead?"

"Ah." It was Laura's turn to nod, her expression thoughtful. "That was quite simple actually." She leaned closer to him, lowering her voice. "You made a wild guess."

"I did?" He sounded pleased. "Jolly good. It would seem that even my wild guesses are filled with genius. You should be proud of me, Miss Holt."

"Oh I am, Mr Steele." They shared a smile, and Laura rose to her feet. "But for now, I'm afraid I shall have to be proud of you from a distance. Murphy and I have a meeting with a client, and it's a long drive."

Steele brightened immediately. "Can I come?"

"Mr Steele..." She sighed. "This 'silent partner' idea is one concept that you simply cannot grasp, isn't it."

"It is." He smirked. "But then it's never been concepts that I'm interested in grasping."

She scowled at him, only half in jest. "Reprobate."

"Stick-in-the-mud." Her eyes widened in mock outrage at this rejoinder, and he took one of her hands. "Go on Laura. I promise to be good."

"You won't talk to the client?"

"I shall be silence itself. Remington Steele listens, watches, melts into the background. He leaves all else to his trusted sidekick." His blue eyes widened, filled with innocence. "So can I come?"

She sighed, relenting. "Something tells me I'm going to regret this."

"Nonsense Laura." He began ushering her towards the door. "You and I get along together just fine."

"That's what I thought about me and Charles."

"True." He nodded, turning the door-handle and opening the door with a flourish. "But then I'm a different kettle of fish altogether."

She frowned up at him. "How's that? You're both con-men. You both lied to me about who you really were."

"True." They crossed the outer office together, heading towards the main doors. "But the difference is that I'm still lying. Which makes our relationship so much more interesting, don't you think?"

"That's not quite how I'd put it." She pushed him through the outer door, into the corridor beyond. He turned to look at her as she followed him through.

"Then how would you put it, Miss Holt?"

"That is something I'm still working on, Mr Steele." She watched him in faint irritation as he headed towards the elevators, although she couldn't stop a reluctant smile from crossing her unseen face. "But I'm getting there."