The London night hung damp, the fog thick and heavy. The only sound on the street was the muted clip-clop of hooves and the rattling wheels of an occasional passing cab. The mist obscured any view of the horse and driver as they moved along their way, oblivious to the two men creeping stealthily up the narrow road.
The taller of the pair was lean, nearly to the point of being gaunt. His narrow face wore an intense expression, the eyes eager for the chase. On his head he wore a deerstalker, the ear flaps tied up to leave his hearing unimpaired. An inverness cape flapped around his arms slightly as he walked. His partner was shorter and a bit stockier, with features that showed more worry and anxiety than anything else. His attire was more conservative -- a common bowler and top coat over a regular business suit with waistcoat.
They made their way in silence until they reached a crossroads which halted them in their tracks. After an instant, the taller man motioned his companion to go one way, while he headed in the opposite direction. They parted company, loosing sight of each other quickly in the dense fog.
The first man followed the winding street, picking up his pace a bit as he caught sight of the chalky footprints again. His face twitched in a playful smile of success. He glanced over his shoulder briefly, considering whether to risk calling out to his partner. In that one moment of inattention he stumbled over a bulky obstacle, barely avoiding loosing his footing on the slippery pavement.
He squinted down at the form on the ground and exasperation crossed his face.
"George, what are you doing down there?"
"Cut!" The annoyed voice from somewhere in the darkness caused him to glance up. Lights suddenly came on and a slim man of about fifty, wearing jeans and a T-shirt, appeared out of the fog. "What are you guys playing at?"
"It's George," the first man explained and gestured to the figure on the floor. He knelt and reached to feel for a pulse. His worried face grew stricken. "He's dead."
"What?" the older man's voice held a tone of stunned disbelief.
"George is dead."
The rest of the crew moved onto the set and a heavy silence settled as the artificial fog slowly dissipated.
"You see, Laura. I could have worn a cape and deerstalker. I would have fit right in."
Laura smiled indulgently as she let her eyes rove the crowded banquet hall. There was an equal mix of people costumed in authentic Victorian dress as well as modern evening wear. She hadn't really known what to expect when Mr. Steele received the invitation to address this gathering of the Non-Canonical Calabashes. Apparently the choice of costume was left up to the individual guest, as long as it was in keeping with the formal mood of the annual Gasfitter's Ball sponsored by the local Sherlockian club.
"All right," she conceded reluctantly. "I should have let you wear what you wanted." She didn't add that after the last fiasco with his choice of party costumes, she wasn't about to give him free reign. She did, however, let her smile grow warmer as she eyed his elegant tux with obvious appreciation. "After all, Remington Steele has impeccable taste in clothes."
Steele's mouth quirked slightly. "Why thank you, Miss Holt. I might say the same for you, my dear associate."
Laura felt her heart beat a bit faster suddenly at the compliment. Her hand fluttered self-consciously to play with her hair. She wasn't always secure with her own appearance, especially on formal occasions. It was nice to hear such flattering words -- and coming from him made them all the sweeter.
Obviously noting her uncertainty, Remington took Laura's arm to lead her to the main table.
"What do you think of my speech?" he questioned, changing the subject to neutral ground.
Laura sighed, grateful for his gesture. "It's very good," she informed him honestly. "I think everyone will love it."
They'd reached their places and Remington held out Laura's chair for her. As she sat, he leaned close to her ear.
"That certainly means a lot coming from my Watson," he teased before taking his own seat.
Laura grinned mischievously. "You're not far wrong there. Without Watson, there would have been no Holmes." She left the rest unsaid.
Steele smiled knowingly. "Touché."
Their table was set for six and all but one guest had taken their seat. Laura glanced at the empty chair and noticed the place card. David Richardson. She recognized the name -- a well known English actor, famed for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes in the most recent series of movies. It fit that he would be a guest here, but she wondered curiously what might be keeping him.
She was about to point his place card out to Remington, but conversation around the room suddenly grew hushed as the host of the evening stepped up to the microphone. Laura knew this was Matthew Turner, president of the Los Angeles chapter of Holmesian fans. The slightly bookish-looking man began his welcoming remarks. He went through the program briefly, then launched into a lavish introduction of the first guest speaker -- the great detective, Remington Steele.
"Good luck," Laura whispered as he rose from the table. Remington mouthed a quiet "thank you," and moved to the podium.
Laura settled back to enjoy the speech, but was quickly interrupted as a tall, well-dressed man appeared by her side. He slipped quietly into the empty seat and Laura immediately pegged him as their absent tablemate. But instead of the calm, dapper actor she expected, the man appeared flustered. Obviously he was trying to be inconspicuous, but as soon as he was seated, he leaned over to address her.
"Miss Holt, I hate to disturb you." His cultured voice was whispered, but still held a tone of urgency. "My name is David Richardson."
Laura smiled acknowledgement. "Yes, I know. I've seen all your Holmes movies. You're the best."
The man waved aside the compliment. "Thank you, but I need your help... yours and Mr. Steele's."
Laura's eyes narrowed curiously. "What can we do for you?"
Richardson never got a chance to reply. At that moment applause sounded the beginning of Remington's speech. David signalled that he would wait until after the program and they both settled back to listen.
Laura was glad she'd already heard the address for it was definitely hard to concentrate. Her mind whirled with possible problems this renown actor might have for them to solve. Though Mr. Steele's speech lasted only ten minutes, it seemed to stretch into hours before he finished. To a renewed round of applause, he left the dais.
David rose to greet the real-life detective and Laura hastened to make the introductions as Remington extended his hand, his face beaming.
"Mr. Richardson, what a pleasure to meet you. I believe I've seen all your films. The Sign of Four -- 1973, A Study in Scarlet -- 1975. The list is endless."
The actor blushed modestly and in honest humility. "Why, thank you. It's always nice to know one's art is appreciated." Both men resumed their seats.
"Mr. Richardson was telling me he might be in need of our help," Laura informed her partner in a low voice.
The detective's eyes widened in surprise, then he faced the actor inquiringly. "How can Remington Steele help the great Sherlock Holmes?"
Richardson's face grew deadly earnest. "I want you to find out who killed Dr. Watson."
The morning sun shone brightly into Remington Steele's plush Century City office. The mood in the room, however, was somber. Steele sat quietly at his desk listening to their new client relate the tragedy at the studio that had claimed his friend's life. Laura was perched on the desk's edge, her eyes alert. As the man gave them the facts, Laura was hard pressed not to think of the actor as the real Sherlock Holmes. The way he paced the office floor, the flutter of his hand to his forehead as he concentrated, his very form and stature -- all contributed to the image of Holmes that was ingrained in Laura's mind.
"The police are convinced George's death was an accident," Richardson informed them glumly. "They say he tripped over some cables in the fog and hit his head." He leaned forward, his dark eyes fierce with conviction. "I believe he was murdered."
"What makes you think that?" Laura questioned. She wanted to be sure this wasn't just a case of grief for a friend overshadowing the obvious.
"Because of these." He reached into his jacket and pulled out a packet of letters and handed them to Laura. "I found them in George's dressing room."
She shuffled through them. Some were address to Sherlock Holmes, the rest to Dr. Watson. She passed them to Remington. It only took a moment for him to go through the stack as well.
"I've been receiving these for a few weeks," David went on. "I had no idea George was getting them as well... until today, that is."
As Laura watched, Remington opened up one of the letters and read part of it out loud.
Staying around Holmes could be detrimental to your health,
"Moriarty?" He raised his eyebrows in surprise.
"Really?" Laura leaned over to glance at the note. She picked up another one.
You have beaten me before, but this time I will win.
She frowned at the implied threat. "Are they all signed this way?"
David nodded. "Every one of them. At the time I didn't think they were important. We get cranks now and again. That's all I thought it was."
"Mr. Hardwicke must have thought so too," Remington observed. "That's probably why he never mentioned them to you."
"I'm sure you're right." Richardson's face grew grim. "I'm not so sure now that we should have taken them so lightly."
Laura broke in to try and reassure their distraught client. "There's no way you could have known, David. What did the police say about these?"
The actor shrugged. "Basically they dismissed them. They truly believe George's death was accidental. They told me they would look into the matter."
Laura knew all too well what that meant. The police had what they considered an open and shut workplace accident. They weren't going to waste precious manpower on crank letters. She exchanged a knowing glance with Remington, then returned to studying the letters.
"These aren't going to be much help," she murmured, mostly to herself. "The postmark is Hollywood. The stationery is dimestore cheap." She squinted at the lettering. "Hmmm... the only clue would be the typewriter. It seems to skip on s and f." She handed the paper to Remington so he could see it. "We'd have to have the actual typewriter before that would do us any good though."
Steele gave the note a cursory glance, then addressed Richardson. "Did George have any enemies? Or any... how can I put this delicately... any indiscretions in his life? Anything that would make someone want him dead? Aside from these letters, of course."
"Mr. Steele!" David's voice rose with indignation. "I've known George Hardwicke for nearly twenty years. There has never been a better man."
"I meant no slight to your friend," Steele hastened to assure the agitated man.
Laura jumped in to bail Remington out. "We do need all the facts if we're going to help."
Richardson sighed and slumped into an empty chair. "I'm sorry. It's just that I had to call George's wife in London yesterday and tell her the news." He paused and sighed, obviously trying to collect himself. "He was a good friend. I owe it to him to find out what happened."
Laura reached over and touched the man's shoulder sympathetically. "We understand it's rough, but we do have to ask the questions." He nodded and gave her a grateful smile which Laura found disarmingly charming. She felt herself returning it. "Do you think anyone might have wanted to stop production?"
The actor shook his head. "I doubt it. We were nearly done. Our principal photography was shot in England. We were only in the States doing a few finishing shots and some post production work. Our films are financed by an American company and the producer likes to have last minute hands-on details done here."
Laura slipped off the desk decisively. "Obviously we aren't going to find anything more here. I think we should go to the studio and check out the accident scene. The crew might offer us some insight."
David visibly brightened at the prospect of doing something useful. "I could come along and act as your tour guide, so to speak. There're several people I could introduce you to who might be able to help."
"That sounds like a wonderful idea." Steele got up from behind the desk, and headed for the door, meaning to open it for Laura. Somehow David was there first, holding it gallantly as Laura sailed through, flashing both men a smile. She didn't have to see Remington's face to know there would be an annoyed expression on it as he followed her out the door. Her smile turned inward as he caught up to her when she stopped to talk to Mildred.
"We'll be at New Venture Studios. Stage..." She turned to David.
"Stage four. I need you to call the coroner's office. See if you can get hold of the autopsy report on George Hardwicke."
"I'm so sorry about what happened to George."
"Thank you, Jessica." David turned to introduce the woman to his companions. "Jessica Martin, our producer. This is Remington Steele and Laura Holt."
As they shook hands, Laura took a moment to size up the woman whose office they'd been ushered into. She was in her late thirties or early forties -- still very attractive, with an efficient manner. Her office spoke of power.
"Miss Holt and Mr. Steele are private investigators," David went on. "I've asked them to check into George's death."
The woman appeared puzzled. "I don't understand. I thought Cal-OSHA was handling the investigation."
"Jess..." Richardson hesitated only briefly. "I don't think it was an accident."
Laura chose that moment to step in. "Can you think of any reason why anyone would want to harm George Hardwicke?"
Ms. Martin shook her head. "No. I'm afraid not."
Remington had been gazing at the framed one-sheets hanging on the walls, but he now turned to ask his own question. "Were you aware that Mr. Hardwicke had received a number of threatening letters?"
Laura hid a smile as the woman gave Steele an obvious once-over. Powerful or not, she was still a woman.
"No, Mr. Steele. I wasn't aware of anything like that going on." She smirked. "It's too bad, though. This picture could use all the help it can get publicity-wise."
"Was the film in trouble?" Remington pressed. "Could someone have wanted to stop production?"
Jessica folded her arms in front of her. "I can't imagine any reason to try and stop this movie. Besides, we only have a few more days to shoot."
"But how can you complete the picture without Mr. Hardwicke?" Laura inquired curiously.
"Plan Nine From Outer Space," Remington muttered for only Laura to hear. She shot him a quizzical glance. "Bela Lagosi died before they completed filming. They had to use a photo double to finish his scenes."
"We'll have to use a photo double," Jessica informed them and Laura coughed to keep from laughing. "Most of Watson's scenes were done anyway." She faced her star apologetically. "I was going to let you know later today, David. It may seem a bit heartless, but we do need to get this done."
Richardson merely nodded crisply. "Fine. Just let me know when you need me."
"You'll get the schedule shortly, I promise." She turned to the detectives. "Do you really think George was murdered?"
Laura exchanged a glance with Remington before she answered cautiously. "David believes it's a possibility."
"Well, I hope you can find out the truth. If George's death wasn't accidental, this film could very well turn into a blockbuster." The woman was all producer now as she went on excitedly. "Why, just the video rights alone could..."
"Is that all the man's death means to you?" Remington accused icily. "Video rights?"
Laura recognized that tone of his voice In spite of his unique and colorful past -- or maybe because of it -- Remington possessed a keen sense of humanity. He had little patience for those people who seemed to have none of it. Laura stepped in quickly to defuse the situation before tempers flared.
"It would help us a great deal to have the names of the cast and crew."
Ms. Martin appeared oblivious to the detective's indignation. "You don't suspect anyone on the set, do you?"
"At the moment, we're only trying to find out what happened.
"We don't suspect anyone yet," Remington advised her in a much calmer voice. "The list of people working on the picture would be very helpful."
The woman gave him a conciliatory smile. "Of course, Mr. Steele. I'll have my secretary give it to you on your way out." She picked up the phone and made the arrangements. When she was done she hung up and faced them again. "All taken care of. The crew is on Stage four. They're setting up for tomorrow's shoot."
"Thank you for you time, Ms. Martin," Laura offered, as the trio stood to take their leave.
The producer rose from her seat as well, but made no move to walk them to the door. As they left her office, Laura saw she was already on the telephone.
"She was certainly broken up over your friend's death," she heard Remington comment drily to David.
The actor's face was pensive. "She probably has a lot on her mind," he hedged in her defense. "Besides," he added with a sad smile, "she never really knew George."
Soundstage 4 was dimly lit and nearly deserted. As they walked down the fake cobblestone street where George had met his fate, the only sound Laura could hear was the echo of three pairs of footsteps.
"Here," David pointed out. His voice sounded unnaturally loud. "This is where I found him."
Without a word, Laura began an intense scrutiny of the area. Remington undertook his own search, his path taking him in the opposite directions. They'd worked long enough together that Laura was confident in his abilities. Even though they sometimes approached a problem from different angles, they almost invariably reached the same conclusions.
As she roamed among the sets she kept her eyes sharp for anything unusual or out of the ordinary. She was so intent on her search that she failed to notice the shadow behind her.
"What the..." Someone grabbed her and whirled her around by the arm. She came face to face with a gruff looking man who dwarfed her small frame.
"What're you doin' here?" he demanded brusquely. "This is a closed set."
Laura took a moment to compose herself, then jerked loose of the man's hold. "Who are you?" she demanded in a calm voice, despite the pace at which her pulse was racing. She quickly assumed the offensive. "And how much can you tell me about yesterday's accident?"
The man grew flustered, losing most of his tough-guy facade. "Nothin'. I wasn't even on the sound stage when it happened. I was in my truck." He stopped and regarded her curiously. "Who are you? Police? I already talked to the cops."
"Laura! Laura, where are you?"
She relaxed at the sound of his voice. Always nice to have the cavalry show up. "Over here," she called.
In a moment, Remington and David appeared, both looking somewhat worried.
"We wondered where you'd wandered off to," the detective stated, eyeing the stranger warily.
"I ran into this gentleman." Laura inclined her head in the big man's direction. "I'm afraid I didn't catch his name."
"Ed Baxter," David supplied. "Our prop man."
"These people friends of yours, Mr. Richardson?"
David nodded assurance. "Yes. This is Mr. Steele, and you've already met Miss Holt."
"Uh, yeah. Nice to meet ya both." His eyes darted between them. "I got some work to finish." With that, he turned and stalked away.
Laura watched after his disappearing figure until she felt Remington's eyes on her. She met his concerned gaze.
"I'm all right," she assured him. "He just took me by surprise."
He searched her face for a moment, then his brows raised questioningly. "Anything?"
Laura shook her head. "He said he was in his truck at the time. Can you verify that, David?"
The actor shrugged. "Sorry. There were so many people around, it's hard to remember who's here and who's not during any particular scene."
"That's all right," she assured him. "Did either of you find anything?"
"Not a thing," Remington reported, "other than getting at least a general layout of the place."
All three turned at the affable greeting. Laura made a mental checklist of the newcomer. He was around thirty, his brown hair on the longish side. He presented an air of casual cheeriness and she found herself smiling in response to him.
"Hello, Mike," David greeted as the man approached. "I'd like you to meet some friends of mine. Remington Steele and Laura Holt. This is Mike Egan, our special effects wizard."
Mike tipped the brim of an imaginary hat. "Howdy."
"Special effects, eh?" Remington mused. "You the one who makes thing go bump in the night?"
Mike's smile grew broader. "That's me all right."
"Were you here yesterday when Mr. Hardwicke had his accident?" Laura inquired.
The effects man's face fell noticeably. "Yeah, I was. It was terrible. I feel really bad about it. I mean, it was partly my fault."
Laura leaned forward, alert for any possible revelation. "Why do you say that?"
Mike stuck his hands into the back pockets of his worn jeans. "The cops said George tripped over that cable 'cause the fog was too thick. I stirred up that fog."
David lay a comforting hand on the man's shoulder. "You can't blame yourself, Mike. You were only doing your job."
Mike shook his head. "I know, but it still bothers me." He paused as if considering something. When he spoke again, his voice had lowered a notch. "Actually, I think the great Kurt Wade was overdoing the fog anyway. I tried to tell him, but you know how a director can be." He glanced over at David as if for confirmation before he continued. "He never listens to anybody's opinion but his own." His face changed suddenly and the smile reappeared. "Speak of the devil," he muttered, then spoke louder. "Kurt."
The director wandered over in their direction. "Hello, David," he began, then addressed Mike curtly. "Egan."
"Good to see you." David appeared to ignore the obvious dislike between the two. He quickly introduced everyone.
"The Remington Steele?" Kurt marveled in amazement.
Laura watched Remington puff up a bit at the recognition and somehow kept from rolling her eyes.
"Why, yes, I suppose I am," he grinned crookedly.
"Are you here about Hardwicke's accident?"
Laura managed to catch Remington's eye before he blurted everything out. She gave him a subtle frown, warning him to be cautious.
"Yes, we are," she answered for him.
"Could you possibly shed some light on the matter," Steele asked, playing the role to the hilt.
The director's expression was unsure. "I don't know. The police told us it was an accident." He stopped and gave Mike a hard look. "Don't you have some work to do, Egan?"
Mike grinned. "Nope. I'm through for the day. But I can take a hint. Nice meeting you two." With that, he sauntered off.
After he was gone, Kurt wheeled on the detectives. "If you want to know whose fault that accident really was, you should ask him," he spat adamantly.
Remembering Egan's opinion of the director, Laura was eager to hear this version. "Why do you say that?"
Kurt placed his hands on his hips indignantly. "He overdid the fog. George wouldn't have stumbled if Egan had exercised a little moderation."
"So special effects has complete control over how much mist was used in the scene?" Remington questioned.
"They sure do," Wade stated emphatically, then he paused and regarded both of them curiously. "Why did you say you were interested in George's death?"
"I'm sorry," Laura stepped in glibly. "Didn't we make that clear? We're working for the insurance company that covers the film."
"But I thought..." The director's eyes moved from Laura to David. The actor, to his credit, picked up the ball.
"Oh, Laura and I are old friends." He put an arm around her in a friendly gesture. Laura didn't mind the contact at all, but she couldn't help noticing how unamused Remington was. "I volunteered to show her and Mr. Steele around the set."
"Yes, Mr. Richardson's been most helpful," Steele added, with a glance toward Laura. "But I think we've seen everything we need to, don't you, Miss Holt?"
Laura knew when not to push. "Yes. We should probably be going. Goodbye, Mr. Wade. Pleasure meeting you."
The director bid them farewell, and they made their way off the stage. David hadn't removed his arm from Laura's waist, but she didn't make an issue of it.
"Well, Mr. Steele?"
"Well, Miss Holt?"
"Our director and the special effects man don't seem to care for one another very much," she observed.
"They certainly were trying to fix the blame on each other," he agreed. He addressed David. "Have they always been that friendly?"
David sighed. "I'm afraid they've always been at daggers' drawn. Made for a bit of tension, I can tell you."
They continued talking as they walked through the set, moving below the rows of lights waiting to be used during the next day's shoot. Laura was talking with David and never noticed anything until she heard Remington suddenly shout her name. The next instant she felt him shove her, pushing her off the walkway. They fell to the ground together at the same time she heard the thundering crash of broken glass.
When she finally caught her breath enough to lift her head, what she saw nearly took it away again. One of the huge lights lay smashed where the three of them had stood. David was sitting off to the side, obviously knocked out of the way by Steele's tackle as well. She stared at the shards and twisted metal for a few moments, then met Remington's eyes. He looked as shaken as she felt.
"Another accident?" He sounded hopeful and Laura hated to burst his bubble.
"I don't think so. It looks like David's stumbled on to something."
"It would have been very easy for someone to push that light off the catwalk," Laura insisted determinedly.
Remington was sitting at his desk, watching her pace as he toyed absently with one of David's anonymous letters. He nodded non-commitally. "And just as easy for it to have been an accident."
Laura's jaw set stubbornly. "I find two accidents in as many days a little hard to swallow."
He smiled affectionately. "But not totally indigestible."
Laura paused in mid-stride and gave him a incredulous look. "Then you don't think George was murdered? That light just happened to fall while we were standing under it?"
"I didn't say that, Laura," Remington countered. "I'm merely pointing out alternatives."
Laura resumed her habitual pacing. "You have to admit, though, that if George was murdered like David thinks, then the light falling on us was almost certainly planned as well. You know what that means."
"I'm afraid that's all too elementary, Watson... uh, Laura. Sorry," he chuckled when she pinned him with a bemused scowl.
She relented and smiled, then returned to thinking out loud. "If we assume for the moment that George was murdered, it must have been by someone who at least has access to the set... someone who could move around without attracting attention. That someone also had to be able to get up on the catwalk."
Remington loved watching her when she was working through a problem like this and he couldn't resist the urge to join her. He got up from his chair and matched her stride for stride.
"We can't rule out our local Sherlockians just yet," he reminded her. "There's still this Moriarty and his threats."
Laura chewed her lower lip thoughtfully. "That doesn't really mean much. Most people know Moriarty was Holmes' arch enemy. Anybody could have picked up on it, especially considering the movie they're making."
"Yes, but who's a more likely suspect?" he postulated. "Some grizzled, old electrician or a crazed fanatic who feels his lifetime idol is being slaughtered on the screen?"
Laura halted and took a defensive stance. "The Calabashes aren't crazed or fanatics. They're normal people... doctors, lawyers, teachers..."
Remington smiled his understanding. "Private investigators?"
Laura blushed. "Well, I never really joined."
Remington reached out and touched her cheek lightly. "I suppose we'll just have to wait and see then, eh? Who knows? Maybe when we compare the list from the studio with the Baker Street Irregulars membership, someone will turn up on both lists."
Laura smiled gratefully and he leaned closer, expecting to meet her lips, when she pulled away suddenly.
"Do you hear that?"
He bit back the disappointment and listened. There was a definite commotion out in the lobby. He and Laura moved as one to the door. Remington's longer arm reached the knob first and he pulled it open to find Mildred standing there, her fist raised to knock. Behind her the lobby was filled with a large group of people milling about, chatting excitedly amongst themselves.
"What is all this, Mildred?" Laura inquired curiously.
"Looks like the building had an open house and forgot to inform us," Steele quipped.
"I'm sorry, Boss," Mildred apologized in dismay. "They all came in with Mr. Richardson. I couldn't very well kick 'em out, could I?"
"David's here?" Laura craned her neck to try and find the actor in the crowd.
Remington spotted their client talking with a man he recognized as the emcee of the ball the other night. David must have caught Laura's eye at that moment, for he nodded in her direction and headed toward them. As he approached, Mildred raced off to rescue her computer from a few of the more curious visitors.
"I'm sorry, Laura... Mr. Steele," David apologized contritely. "I hope you don't mind the intrusion."
"Who are all these people?" Remington marveled.
"The officers from the Calabashes." The actor pulled the man he'd been talking to forward. "This is their president, Matthew Turner."
The Sherlockian held out an eager hand to Remington, who shook it gingerly. "We met briefly at the banquet, Mr. Steele," Turner stated amiably. "It certainly is a pleasure to observe you in your element, as it were."
Remington tugged at his tie, awkward with such open adoration. "It's nothing really."
"You said you needed information on the local members," David broke in smoothly, obviously noting Steele's discomfort. "They wanted to witness a real detective in action. I didn't think you'd mind."
Laura grinned devilishly. "Why, Mr. Steele doesn't mind in the least."
"Laura..." Remington growled in protest.
She ignored his grumbling and prodded him forward. "Go on, sir. Give them a chance to talk to a real detective."
Remington hated it when she got like this. He made one more attempt to plead for mercy. "Don't you think we should both handle it?"
Laura's eyebrows rose in mock surprise. "Nonsense. These people came to see Sherlock Holmes, not Dr. Watson." For a moment, she gave up the game and her face grew serious. She leaned forward and spoke in low tones for his ears only. "Maybe you can pick up a line on one of them."
Remington regarded her suspiciously, not sure if she were still baiting him. Then he sighed in resignation and moved over toward the group of eager fans.
Laura watched as he was surrounded, only half-penitent for setting him up like that. Satisfied that he could handle himself, she turned back to Turner.
"Now... what we need is..."
"A list of our members, right?" He shoved a stack of papers at her, his face beaming with satisfaction. "I'm not a detective fan for nothing, Miss Holt. I know how you professionals operate."
Laura smiled at his enthusiasm. "I guess you do at that." She flipped through the lengthy list. "This is going to take some time."
"If you have any questions, feel free to call me," Turner assured her eagerly. "I mean, I'd hate to think one of our people is a murderer, but if it's at all possible, I'd like to help."
"Thank you, Mr. Turner. You've been a great deal of help already." She indicated the papers. "We may need to ask you more questions later."
Laura could swear the man positively glowed. "I'm at your disposal." He glanced over his shoulder and winced apologetically. "I think I'd better go rescue Mr. Steele."
Laura patted his shoulder. "Don't worry, he loves every minute of it."
They walked to where Laura could hear Remington winding up some long tale which she knew was more than likely a complete fabrication, but which held all the mystery buffs entirely captivated.
"...and I must tell you," Remington was relating. "He certainly had me stumped for a while. Who would ever have suspected that meek, mild-mannered little man capable of such a heinous crime."
"So what finally tipped you off?" one of his listeners questioned.
"What tipped me of, eh?" Laura knew she was probably the only one present who noticed the slight falter in Mr. Steele's confident tone. "Well... it was fairly obvious... to the trained eye, that is..." He spied Laura and by the relief on his face, she knew he'd found his way out. "Ah... and here's the person without whom I could never have solved the case. My most able partner, Laura Holt."
Laura couldn't count the number of times he'd done this to her, but she couldn't be angry with him this time. Not when she was the one who'd put him in the jam in the first place. She only wished she knew what he'd been babbling about so she could fake a reasonably logical sounding conclusion. As it turned out, she didn't have to. She was wracking her brain when Matthew Turner jumped in and rescued them both.
"I think we've taken up enough of your time, Mr. Steele... Miss Holt. Thanks for letting us invade you like this."
"Not at all," Remington assured them, magnanimous now that it was over. "Not at all."
He ushered his group quickly out of the lobby, leaving them all rather breathless.
"Sorry if that was a bit of a stampede," David apologized.
"No problem," Laura reassured their client. She held up the sheets of paper. "We may just find something here, but it's going to take some digging." She handed the stack to Remington who eyed them warily. She knew it was merely apprehension at all the legwork involved that had him worried.
"But we're not even positive George was murdered," he protested.
"We'll have more to go on as soon as we see the coroner's report," Laura stated smoothly, seeing David about to argue that point.
"Oooh!" Mildred exclaimed abruptly. She waved a folder in front of them. "I'm sorry, Boss. I was on my way in with it when that herd showed up. It's only the preliminary report."
She held the file out to Remington, but Laura grabbed it first and scanned it quickly, her interest growing the further along she got.
"Laura, what is it?" Remington broke into her concentration. "You've got that I'm not sure what to make of it look on your face."
Laura handed him the report distractedly. "The coroner is still calling it an accident," she informed them. "George hit his head when he fell over the cables in the fog."
"Well, then... couldn't it be just that?" Remington mused as he shuffled through the report. "They can't all be murders, Laura. Maybe this was just an accident."
Laura glanced up at David's vehement cry. The actor's face flushed with embarrassment at his outburst, but he stuck to his guns.
"I'm sorry, but I know better than that. George wasn't clumsy and those notes weren't just a coincidence. This fellow meant business. He still does."
Laura was inclined to agree, especially considering what she'd read in the autopsy. "David... didn't you tell us you found George lying face down?" The man nodded grimly and Laura felt the stirrings of excitement that perhaps they'd finally found something concrete to go on. "But the cause of death is listed as a blow to the back of the head."
Remington stepped up beside Laura, obviously catching her drift. "How could that have happened if he tripped and fell forward?"
"Then there's the proof!" David exclaimed. "He was murdered."
Laura hated to dampen his spirits, but she felt obliged to point out the missing elements. "Maybe, but we still don't know why or by whom."
Remington sighed and pulled one of the letters out of his pocket. "Then we're back to the bloody notes."
Laura stared at him for several moments, finally realizing what was bothering her. Remington was holding a piece of paper in each hand. She knew he'd only taken one out of his jacket.
"Where did you get that?"
"What?" Remington stared at the note dumbly. "Out of my pocket. I just..." His brow creased with confusion as he saw both letters. "I..." He held up his right hand. "This one is David's... so whose is this?"
Laura and David both watched in silent expectation as Remington opened the new letter slowly. She saw his eyes dart over the words quickly, then grow dark as he mutely handed it to her. She took it and read it out loud for David's benefit.
The time is coming for us to meet face to face. If we don't, the end will come.
The Napoleon of Crime,
Laura stared at the words in silence, slowly realizing that the two men beside her were quiet as well. It was obvious what this new threat meant, but Remington finally voiced what they were all thinking.
"As least we know you're safe, David. Our man doesn't seem interested in you anymore."
"Yes... now that he's after you." The actor cleared his throat self-consciously. "Sorry about that, old man."
Laura saw Remington assume the false bravado he saved for clients and the press, and though it usually made her grind her teeth, she could have kissed him for it now.
"Yes, well... all in a day's work for us detectives. Right, Miss Holt?"
She smiled her gratitude and he returned it with one of his own, his eyes telling her he knew she saw right through him. After a pause, she focused on David.
"Where do you suppose George kept the rest of the notes he received? In his hotel room?"
David shook his head. "No. Neither of us stay in the hotels the studio provide. We were back and forth so much that we both keep apartments here."
Laura's senses were on full alert now. This was shaping up more and more like a full-blown case of murder and she was itching to start finding answers.
"I think Mr. Steele and I have an appointment at George's apartment. David, you stay here. I don't want to take any chances that this Moriarty might still be after you too."
With a quick and professional flick of his wrist, Remington felt the lock give and he twisted the knob freely. He got up and pushed the door open, gesturing for Laura to proceed him into George Hardwicke's apartment. She did so, then halted abruptly. Curious, Remington followed her into the entryway, only to stop and gaze around in surprise at the sight that greeted them.
The place was in shambles. The bookshelves lining the main room were now empty -- all the books scattered haphazardly around the floor. It was obviously not the work of the routine investigative team sent out by the police.
"It appears someone else had the same idea we did," Steele commented.
"Only they had it first." Laura picked her way gingerly through the carelessly strewn volumes.
"Our friend Moriarty?"
Laura was still gazing about the room, searching for anything telling. "I don't know," she admitted, "but whoever it was, they were obviously looking for something in particular."
Remington moved over to the coffee table, where he found a lone pile of texts, neatly stacked. They were out of place only because of the disarray surrounding them. He examined them curiously.
"Find anything?" Laura asked, as she came up beside him.
He twisted his mouth thoughtfully. "Hmmm. They're all Sherlock Holmes material... novels, story compilations, commentaries and the like."
Laura picked up a few from the stack. "I read most of these when I was in high school," she reminisced. She smiled when she found one in particular. "This was my favorite. The Hound of the Baskervilles."
"I remember that one," Remington offered. "Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce... Twentieth Century Fox, 1939. What a wonderful film."
Laura graced him with a frown of mock reproof. "I meant the book."
Remington merely smiled his indulgence of her preference for printed material over cinematic experiences. He returned his attention to the curious pile. "Why are these still neatly stacked when the rest of the room would qualify as a disaster area?" He flipped through one of the volumes and a scrap of paper fluttered loose and floated to the floor.
Laura bent to pick it up. "Galactic Voyagers," she read and looked at him in puzzlement. "What do you suppose that means?"
Remington glanced up from the book. "New Venture Films. It's their latest release. Breaking all the records at the box office."
"A movie?" Laura stared at the scrawled words. "What can a movie title possibly have to do with all this?"
Steele shrugged. "Maybe George was planning to see it," he suggested helpfully.
Laura was quiet, and Remington could almost hear her mind working furiously. After a few moments, however, she gave it up as pointless. "You're probably right."
The phone chose that moment to ring loudly, startling them both. Laura was the first to recover and reached to answer it.
"Hello?" He could see the wariness in her eyes until she identified the caller. Then relief filled her voice. "Yes, Mildred. No, I'm glad you called." She paused to listen and her face grew intent. Remington could only wonder at the one-sided conversation. "That's great, Mildred. What was it? Really? With whom? David?" Laura's voice rose with disbelief. "But they were best friends." There was another pause. "All right. No, that's fine, Mildred. Keep an eye on him... What? Where? Okay... okay, thanks, Mildred." She hung up the phone.
"Not good news, I presume," Remington stated anxiously. Laura was definitely agitated.
"No. It seems our client hasn't been exactly forthcoming. Mildred got a call from Mike Egan. He says he remembered that David and George had a huge fight a few days before the accident."
"Now that's interesting," Steele commented thoughtfully.
"There's more," Laura informed him. "Matthew Turner phoned a few minutes ago wanting to discuss some possible Moriarty candidates with us. David's gone there himself to talk with Turner."
Remington felt a churning in his stomach. Events were certainly spinning faster than he was comfortable with. "It appears our good client could bear closer scrutiny," he observed. I think we should meet him at Mr. Turner's and have a little chat."
It didn't take long for them to drive the Rabbit to the nice, upper-income home. As they pulled to a stop in front, Laura pointed out the new Mercedes parked at the curb.
"David's here all right."
She started to open the door, but Remington took her arm to stop her.
"I think one of us should take this opportunity to check out David's apartment. Something may turn up... maybe a certain typewriter."
He could tell by her expression she didn't want to find anything incriminating, but she nodded her agreement. "Good idea. I'll see what's brewing here besides tea. Meet you back at the office?"
Steele nodded and she got out of the car. Before she started up the walk, he leaned across to her open window.
"Be careful," he called softly.
Laura flashed him a smile and a smart salute to the brim of her hat. His heart warmed at the gesture and he was smiling himself as he drove away.
Remington parked Laura's Rabbit on the street in front of the comfortable-looking apartment complex. It wasn't as extravagant as he would have imagined for an obviously well-to-do film star, but that didn't mean anything in and of itself. David had never struck Steele as ostentatious anyway. This nice, but not too showy, flat only went along with that first impression.
He ran into few people and it only took a couple of moments to neatly pick the lock. He closed the door behind him, turned around and stopped. David's living room was in the same shape as George's. The place was in shambles, with books strewn everywhere. Steele's eyes narrowed as he regarded the mess, then some instinct sent his gaze in the direction of the small coffee table. As he'd expected, there was a small pile of books stacked there.
He took a seat on the couch, picking through the selected volumes. Just like at George's, these were all Sherlock Holmes related.
"Hmmm," he mused thoughtfully. "Curiouser and curiouser."
Laura stepped out of the Turner house and walked down the steps toward David's car. Beside her, the actor was still apologizing.
"I hope you believe me, Laura. I only came to see if I might be able to help. I do know a few of the members and I felt so bloody useless sitting around your office."
They'd reached his car and he leaned in front of her to open the passenger side door. As he did so, he had to move a pile of books off the seat.
"I'm sorry. Let me get these out of your way."
"It's all right," Laura assured him. She hated seeing him so flustered. "I can hold them."
She climbed in. After only a brief hesitation, David handed her the books and moved around to slip in behind the wheel. In a moment, they pulled away from the curb. As David was intent on his driving, Laura glanced through the pile, curious to see what they were.
"Just some Holmes material," David informed her. "Commentaries and the like. They're very interesting if you'd like to borrow them."
"Thanks. I will." Laura took a moment to study David. All her instincts were telling her he was sincere. "Then all you and George were really arguing about was how to play a scene?"
David's dark eyes were distressed as he met her gaze. "I assure you, Laura. That's all it was. Sometimes even the best of friends get into scraps, especially when you work together constantly. Don't you and Mr. Steele find that to be true?"
She had to chuckle at that and she felt the last of her suspicions fading away. "We certainly do," she agreed.
"It pains me so much that we had that row so shortly before he died. Hardly the way to end such a long friendship." David's attention was once more on the road, but Laura could still see the pain in his expression. She wished there was something she could say to help, but had to settle instead for reaching out and squeezing the man's hand with as much comfort as she could convey. He flashed her a grateful smile, then once more focused on his driving.
Remington pushed through the office door, half-expecting to see Laura. Instead, Mildred rushed up to greet him.
"Ah, Mildred. Is Miss Holt back yet?"
"Not yet, Boss, but this came while I was out." She handed him a plain envelope.
He took it and opened it gingerly. The message was brief and he quickly refolded the paper and stuffed it back into the envelope.
"Thank you, Mildred. Make sure Laura sees this when she comes back."
He spun and walked out the door he'd just come in, ignoring his receptionist's pleas for an explanation. He strode toward the bank of elevators and for once didn't have to wait. There was an empty car sitting open and he entered, stabbing at the ground floor button. He could still hear Mildred's voice as the doors closed.
"But, Boss... be careful."
The elevator pinged and the doors opened to let Laura and David out on the 11th floor. They headed down the hall toward the office. As soon as they entered, Mildred began waving something at them frantically.
"Oh, Miss Holt! This came for the Boss. He said to make sure you got it. He only left a second ago. If you hurry, you can catch him."
Laura snatched the note from the older woman and read it hastily.
Reichenbach has come. It's life and death now. Meet me at the Fryman Canyon Overlook on Mulholland Drive.
"What's Reichenbach?" Mildred wondered.
"A waterfall in Switzerland," David informed her. "It's where Holmes finally confronted Moriarty."
"And?" Mildred prodded anxiously.
"They both went over the falls, Mildred," Laura supplied. She turned to David. "Come on. You're driving."
Remington parked the Rabbit alongside the curb and got out. The wind whipped at his face with gusto as he scanned the small pullout, meant to be a view spot along the curving hillside road. Near the edge of the drop off, he spotted a lone figure. Behind him, on the other side of the small canyon, Mulholland Drive meandered its way up the hillside and an occasional car whizzed by, oblivious to the drama unfolding here.
As Remington approached, he recognized the man waiting for him as one of the more avid fans who'd been in the office earlier. He was young, probably college-aged, and from looks alone, appeared harmless enough.
"I'm glad you could make it, Mr. Holmes," the man greeted.
Remington stopped as they came face to face. "I'm not Sherlock Holmes," he reproved gently, "any more than you're really Professor Moriarty." He peered closer and the name came to him. "It's Wendall, right?"
The man nodded. "Yeah. And I know you're not Holmes. That's why I had to warn you. If you were really Sherlock Holmes I wouldn't have to. You'd have figured it out yourself."
"Warn me about what?"
Wendall seemed genuinely surprised at his ignorance. "About the men who killed George Hardwicke. Isn't that what you're working on?"
"Yes," Steele agreed, "but I was under the assumption that you wanted Mr. Hardwicke dead." He held up the notes. "I believe these are yours."
Wendall shrugged sheepishly. "Yeah, I wrote 'em. But that was only 'cause his Watson was horrible. He was playing him all wrong." He met Steele's eyes and his face was intense. "But I couldn't have killed him, no matter how badly he was murdering Watson on the screen."
Remington found himself believing the young man, in spite of his obvious obsession. "So what do you know about the men who did kill George?"
As David screeched around the sharp curve, Laura spotted her car parked in a small turnout.
"There!" she cried and braced herself as the actor braked hard not to miss it. He skidded to a stop behind the Rabbit and they both jumped out of the Mercedes.
As she closed the door, Laura caught sight of Remington standing beside a young man. Both of them had turned at the sound of the approaching car and were now focused on her. Beyond them, on the higher elevated road, Laura could also see someone else. A man was standing beside his car, a high-powered rifle aimed at the scene below. It only took an instant for Laura to realize what was happening.
"Look out!" she shrieked just as shots rang out.
She barely saw Remington dive at his companion before David yanked her down between the two cars for cover. What she did see was both Remington and the young man fall over the side of the cliff together.
She struggled to free herself of David's grasp, but he held her tightly until the shooting had stopped. Laura heard the screech of tires as the assailant's car raced away. It was only then that David released his hold on her. Together they both got up from the dirt and scrambled to the cliffside.
As she reached the edge, Laura slowed, not wanting to see -- afraid to look over the side. He couldn't be gone. Not like that. She bit her lip to keep her emotions in check as she cautiously peered over.
Her heart started beating again and she nearly cried in relief. Remington was there, part way down the hillside, clinging precariously to the slope. He must have heard her, for he glanced up and gave her a reassuring smile.
Laura sank to her knees, weak suddenly, and she saw Remington twist to gaze over his shoulder. She moved her eyes from his precious, living face to see the twisted body of the young man, much father down the cliff. He was obviously dead. As she watched, Remington's smile faded. His face grew grim and he slowly lowered his head to rest against the dirt.
The quiet of the late afternoon had changed to the loud static of police radios and the sound of many feet and voices as the police officers combed the area for evidence. Laura watched the coroner's wagon pull away, taking the body of Wendall Jacobs. They still didn't know much about him, except that he'd tried to warn them about something and had paid for it with his life.
She stood silent and contemplative, leaning against the Rabbit as the police did their job. David was talking quietly into the car phone from his Benz. Remington was beside her, still dirty and disheveled from his fall. He was staring absently at the road where the shooter had stood, and he seemed far away. She wanted to say something to him, but before she got the chance, the officer in charge of the investigation, approached.
"We found some shell casings up on the hill," he informed them. "You were very lucky, Mr. Steele."
"Unlike that young man."
Laura shot Remington a sharp glance, concerned at the bitterness of his tone. The policeman pressed on.
"Do you have any idea what all this was about?"
Laura sighed. "George Hardwicke's supposed accident." She peered closer at the man's badge, recognizing his name. "Lt. Conway... You investigated that, didn't you?"
He raised his eyebrows in surprise. "Yeah, I did. And the coroner just confirmed it wasn't an accident." He narrowed his bushy eyebrows. "What's that got to do with..." he consulted his notes, "Wendall Jacobs?"
Remington broke in to explain. "He sent me a note an hour ago telling me he knew who killed George and why. He signed it Moriarty."
"Moriarty?" the officer echoed. "Wasn't that the name on those nutsy letters Richardson was getting?"
Laura nodded grimly. "George Hardwicke was receiving them as well."
"Which you boys in blue didn't take seriously," Remington accused sharply.
The lieutenant bristled. "Come on. Did you?"
Steele's anger faded. "No. I'm afraid we didn't either."
Laura touched Remington's arm gently and he reached to squeeze her hand. At that point David rejoined them, his face serious.
"I just got through talking with Matt Turner. He knew Wendall well. Seems the boy was known as a bit of a crank, even among the Calabashes. This wasn't the first time he'd sent threatening letters to actors portraying Holmes and Watson."
"So he probably didn't know anything," Conway concluded. "His letter to you, Steele, was just another prank. That means the killer was most likely after you, not Jacobs." He jotted some notes on his pad.
Laura faced Remington bleakly. "I'm afraid it appears that way." She cringed at the bleakness in his eyes.
"That means Wendall Jacobs was just a mixed up kid in the wrong place at the wrong time," he pronounced glumly.
The mood was somber as the trio entered the Agency. Mildred met them expectantly, but picked up at once that things hadn't gone well. Remington whisked past her desk without a word and disappeared into his office. Laura left David in Mildred's care and made her way to the large office.
She found him sitting in his chair, deep in thought. She closed the door behind her and perched on the desk, facing him. She could tell how upset he was about Wendall's death. He always felt such thing deeply and she wanted desperately to comfort him.
"It wasn't your fault," she offered, knowing it sounded lame, but hoping it would at least start a dialog.
She saw the corner of Remington's mouth quirk wryly. "Is it that obvious?"
She smiled warmly. "Only to me."
He at last lifted his eyes to meet hers, some of his usual humor returned. "You always were the best detective in this partnership," he teased softly.
"No," Laura corrected kindly, "just the most experienced."
Remington got up suddenly and moved to stare out the window, still trying to make sense of something senseless. "He was an innocent victim. He was playing a game. The killer was shooting at me and the poor kid got in the way."
Laura shifted closer, slipping her arm through his. "We aren't certain he was innocent. Maybe he knew something we aren't aware of yet. Maybe he was there purposely to set you up."
Remington raised a curious eyebrow. "You think he had something to do with Hardwicke's death?"
"I don't know." Laura moved her arm to wrap around his waist. His arm lifted and automatically came down around her shoulders. Laura allowed herself a small shiver of excitement at how closely he held her. "What I think," she continued in a low voice, "is that we can't start laying blame for anything... not until we have more facts. And even then, you weren't the one who pulled the trigger."
Remington still wasn't quite ready to let go. "Some Sherlock Holmes I am," he murmured.
"You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes," Laura chided gently. "You're Remington Steele. Sherlock Holmes is fictional. Remington Steele is flesh and blood."
She reached up to close the gap between them and met his lips with hers. He returned the kiss whole-heartedly. After a few moments of this indulgence, Remington pulled away slightly.
"Nice," he commented appreciatively. "Holmes never had it this good. All he ever did was worry the criminal element."
"Well, we've certainly got someone worried," Laura agreed. Her mind once more on the case, she broke out of Remington's arms and began her habitual pacing. She mulled over everything that had happened so far, struggling to sort things out. She absently registered the fact that Remington had gone back to his desk and was sorting through the stack of books she'd forgotten she set on his desk.
"Oh, my books."
Laura joined him in scanning the volumes. "Actually, they're David's. I wanted some reference material on Holmes and he loaned them to me." She paused, noting the odd expression on Remington's face. "What is it?"
He glanced up at her in amazement. "That's it!"
"It's been the books all along."
Laura was lost. "What are you talking about?"
In new-found excitement, Remington got up and came around to the front of the desk to stand beside Laura. "At George's flat we found Holmes books stacked neatly, while the rest of the books had been scattered."
Laura nodded. "Yes. I was there," she reminded him, wondering what had gotten him so worked up.
He smirked at her remark. "Of course you were... but you weren't with me at David's. I found the exact same thing. One pile of Holmes books set aside, while all the others were strewn all over the place. With everything that's happened I'd forgotten about it 'til just now when I saw these."
While he'd been talking, Laura had resumed her pacing. "So our ransackers went through the Holmes books first, and when they didn't find what they were after, they tore the rest of the place apart."
"Exactly," Remington concurred. "And definitely not as methodically. They must have had a reason for singling these out."
"Well, I doubt they found what they wanted or they wouldn't have searched both apartments," Laura observed.
"Why both places," Remington mused.
Laura felt a light coming on in the distance. It wasn't anything concrete, but at least it was there starting to gel around the edges. "Because David had these." She gestured to the pile on the desk. "George had been reading them and just recently returned them. That's why David had the books in his car."
Remington frowned. "But if it was David who had what they wanted, why break into Hardwicke's apartment? And why kill him?"
Laura exhaled noisily. "That I don't know yet." She stared at the books intently. "There's got to be something here."
"They don't seem unusual at all," Remington observed.
"No, they don't." She pondered for a moment, then reached for the phone. "Mildred? Could you send Mr. Richardson in please?"
"And if David has no ideas?" Remington asked.
Laura smiled. "Then I have one of my own."
The door to the office opened and the actor entered, his face questioning. "You wanted to see me?"
"What can you tell us about these books?" Remington inquired. "Anything special?"
David shrugged and picked up one of the volumes. "Not really. Just books on Sherlock Holmes. Why?"
"We think the killers may have been after these," Laura informed him. "Are you sure there isn't something important here?"
David gave her a helpless look. "Honestly, Laura, I don't know. Some are fairly rare, but they're hardly first editions. Does that mean anything?"
Laura smiled. "Let's go have some tea and find out."
"Tea?" Remington and David chorused.
Laura scooped up some of the books and handed them to Remington. The rest she shoved at David. Then, gesturing for them to follow, she headed for the door. She paused when neither man had made a move.
"Are you two coming?"
She hid her smile at the glance they exchanged before she saw Remington shrug, then start after her, David in his wake.
The Scene of the Crime was a small bookstore and tea room, done up in Victorian decor and specializing in mystery books and paraphernalia. Laura was a frequent customer and knew most of the employees. It was obvious, though, that neither of her male companions had ever been here before. As they walked inside, both men were caught up in the atmosphere of the place and each began wandering the aisles, taking in the many different displays and items for sale.
Leaving them to their own devices, Laura made her way to the front desk, where a studious-looking young man was tending the register.
"Ryan," Laura greeted. "How are you?"
He glanced up, his bearded face breaking into a smile. "Laura, good to see you. I'm afraid the book you ordered isn't in yet."
"That's okay," she assured him. "That's not why I'm here. I need your expert opinion."
"Sure, Laura. Anything I can do."
She caught Remington's eye and beckoned him over. He nudged David and they came up and set their pile of books on the desk. Laura quickly introduced them to Ryan, who was a bit overwhelmed at meeting the great Remington Steele and the well-known Sherlockian actor at the same time. Laura managed to calm him down enough to get him to examine the books.
"We were wondering if there was anything special about them," she informed him. "Are they valuable at all?"
Ryan pushed his glasses up on his nose and picked the first one up to examine. He went through the entire group carefully, muttering to himself as he did so.
"Hmm... nothing here... not even a first edition... this one's pretty good... read it myself... nope, nothing with this one."
"Anything, Mr. Jeffries?" Remington prompted after a time.
The clerk had just reached the bottom of the pile. "Not really. Nothing out of the ordinary."
"Nothing special at all?" Laura was keenly disappointed. She'd had such high hopes.
"Well, Laura," Ryan stipulated, "they're all special to a true collector. Some of them are expensive." He picked one up. "The Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes by Ellery Queen. It's in mint condition... probably worth about $500.00." He found another one. "This one's by T.S. Blakeney. Sherlock Holmes Fact or Fiction. It goes for around $300.00."
Laura sighed, appreciating the irony. "Expensive, but not valuable."
Ryan nodded. "Exactly."
"Where does that leave us?" David wondered.
"Ready for tea?" Remington suggested.
Laura felt herself start to bristle, but knew she wasn't really mad at Mr. Steele. He wasn't trying to be flippant and they probably could use the break to regroup. She let out her breath and followed the men to the tea room. They dumped the books on the small table and each took a wing back chair to await their order.
They didn't say much until they'd each had a few minutes to think and sip at their tea. Remington had ordered scones to go with it and Laura found herself nibbling one hungrily. She couldn't remember when she'd last eaten.
Finally Remington set down his cup and thumbed through one of the texts.
"Where did you get this one, David?"
The actor thought a moment. "London... a couple of years ago."
Laura decided this might be worth pursuing and picked out another one. She glanced over at David.
"Ummm... New York... five years ago, I believe."
They spent the next few minutes going through the rest without results, until Remington chose one of the last three remaining. "What about this?" he asked dully.
David perked up a bit. "I actually bought these last three a couple of weeks ago. There's this lovely little shop in Long Beach." He paused and his brows knitted thoughtfully. "Actually... there was someone else interested in this edition. The shop called me the same day I bought it and asked if I'd be willing to sell to another collector. I wasn't, so I never followed up on it. Hadn't really thought about it much since then."
Laura caught the look Remington shot her and she grabbed for one of the books, while David took the last. They each examined their respective volumes closely, both Mr. Steele and David coming up with nothing. Laura, however, felt her excitement returning as she felt along the spine.
"I'm not sure," she hedged, feeling a grin break out on her face. "It feels like there's something here."
Remington reached over and took the book, checking it out. "I think you may be right." He flexed the cover back, trying to break the binding. He was rewarded by a slight snap, followed by a small clink as something fell to the table. A flat key lay on the lacy cloth.
They all stared at it for a time, until Remington broke the silence.
"I believe the game is afoot... again."
Remington lay sprawled on the couch in his office. His feet hurt and he had the beginnings of a headache. Laura always accused him of being allergic to legwork and after today he was inclined to believe her. They'd been everywhere they could think of that might have the kind of locker the key belonged to, but had been frustrated at each place. Finally, dejected, they'd come back to the offices to regroup. Laura was slouched in the chair, her feet propped on the desk, her face not doing a very good job of hiding her disappointment. David was the only one still on his feet. He was pacing restlessly and Remington tried not to watch him. It only made his own legs ache worse.
He heard the door open, but didn't open his eyes. It could only be Mildred.
"I take it you didn't find the locker," she observed astutely.
Remington sighed. "No, we didn't. And we've been everywhere."
"LAX," Laura intoned. "Burbank and Van Nuys airports. The Greyhound terminal in the valley..."
"The Greyhound station downtown," David added, then shuddered slightly. "What a disgusting place."
"And nothing, huh?"
Remington shook his head. "In your own words, Mildred... bupkis." He lifted his head slightly. "We didn't try the lockers at the YMCA."
Laura frowned. "Do you know how many Y's there are just in Los Angeles?"
He held up his hand to forestall her. "Please, Laura. I don't think I want to."
She chuckled at him. "Don't worry. Somehow I think this is for a place more easily accessible."
Remington relaxed again, very much relieved, until Laura's next outburst, which brought him up straight.
"I've got it!" she cried and smacked her palm to her forehead. "Why didn't I think of it before? Where's the most logical place for Sherlock Holmes?"
"Where?" David looked puzzled.
The light suddenly dawned on Remington's weary mind. "Of course. Union Station." Before he had time to blink, Laura had snatched the key off the desk and raced past him in a blur. He was instantly on his feet and only a step behind her, with David and Mildred at his heels.
The drive to the train station was interminably slow this late in the afternoon. In spite of Fred's best efforts, it took nearly forty-five minutes to make the trip into the downtown area. Sitting in the front seat with Fred, Remington fretted silently, letting his fingers drum out his impatience on the armrest. After what seemed like an eternity, they finally pulled into station parking and everyone spilled out.
The number they wanted was 77C. Trying their best not to appear hurried, the group searched the row of lockers until they stopped at the appropriate one.
"There's no key in it," Laura observed hopefully.
"Always a good sign, eh?"
Remington took the key from his pocket and inserted it into the small opening. He held his breath and gave it a slight turn. It moved easily and he exhaled noisily as he yanked the metal door open.
Stuffed inside was a small duffle bag. He pulled it out and held it while Laura nervously unzipped it. He heard a collective gasp from Laura, Mildred and David as they saw the contents. The bag was crammed with money -- a lot of it.
The sun had just dipped below the western horizon as the limo headed toward the studio. They'd dropped Mildred off at the offices, and were now on their way to take David to the evening's shoot. In the fading light, Remington squinted at the scrap of paper they'd found with the money, reading the list of movie titles and studio names.
"So we're right back where we started from," David complained. "Nowhere."
"Not exactly," Laura consoled. "We know what they were after now." She patted the satchel of money.
Remington tore his attention away from the paper. "Just not who is after it or why," he reminded her drily. He held up the list. "Only these movie titles... and recent ones at that."
"It's almost certainly somebody at the studio," Laura stated. She touched David's arm lightly. "I wish you didn't have to go there tonight. It's probably not safe."
"But it wasn't me they were after," the actor protested reasonably, "only the money."
"But they still don't have the money," Laura persisted.
"Yes, they're liable to be a bit testy about that," Remington agreed.
David's face grew determined. "I need to go," he insisted firmly. "It's important that I finish the film... for George."
The limo had reached the studio by now and the trio got out and strolled the rest of the way up to the gate. They paused at the entrance.
"It's rather like a memorial to an old friend," David continued thoughtfully. "I have to finish."
Remington could understand the man's sentiments. Laura obviously did as well. She smiled understandingly as she reached up to give the actor a peck on the cheek.
"Promise you'll be careful," she admonished.
"Excuse me, Mr. Steele," Fred called from the limo. The chauffeur with the phone in his hand. "Telephone for you."
"Thank you, Fred." Remington turned to shake David's hand. "Take care."
With that the actor walked past the guard and onto the lot. After he'd disappeared from view, Remington held Laura's arm and they headed to the limo. As they got there, he took the phone from Fred.
"Steele here," he spoke briskly. "Yes, Mr. Turner. Of course I remember you... No, no bother at all... yes, I see... That's wonderful. No, no that's fine... we can handle it from our end. You've been a great deal of help. Thank you ever so much."
"I take it that was our foremost Sherlockian," Laura observed.
Remington nodded. "He said he remembered Wendall had a girlfriend he'd brought to a few meetings. He thought we might want to talk with her. Her name's Cheryl Crandall"
"Does he know where she lives?"
"Somewhere in Sherman Oaks," Remington told her. He gave her a smile. "He volunteered to ferret her out, but I assured him we professionals were capable of doing our own ferreting."
Laura laughed and grabbed hold of his arm, pulling herself close. "Putting on our deerstalkers, are we?"
Remington gazed into those expressive brown eyes and could think of better things to do with Laura tonight than legwork, but supposed it couldn't be avoided. "You'd wear it magnificently," he complimented resignedly.
Laura laughed again as they climbed into the limo.
Evening had fallen completely by the time they reached Puerta Madera apartments in Sherman Oaks. It was a moderately nice place, kept up well with fairly new cars in the parking spaces. Laura and Remington moved slowly down the walkway, checking out numbers until they stopped at 29F.
"This is it," Laura announced. "According to Mildred's magic computer, this is where Cheryl Crandall lives."
She knocked confidently and after a few moments, the door opened a tiny crack. She could see part of a face on the other side of a chain lock, but it was hard to make the woman out completely.
"Who is it?" came the demand.
"My name is Laura Holt, Miss Crandall." Laura spoke kindly, wanting to put this woman at ease. She gestured to Remington. "This is Remington Steele. We're private..."
"Remington Steele?" Cheryl's voice rose with excitement. "The Remington Steele?"
Laura rolled her eyes at Remington's grin, but the door closed and they could hear the rattling of the chain being removed.
"Whatever works," she muttered to herself as the door opened wide to reveal a pretty woman in her early twenties.
"Please come in," she invited pleasantly.
As the pair of investigators entered the apartment, Laura was struck at once by the amount of things there were. If she were a bit overwhelmed, however, Remington was in heaven. The place was a movie buff's paradise, with memorabilia everywhere. Obviously awe-struck, he moved trance-like over to where an entire wall of shelves was filled with video cassettes. Laura let him study them, while she got down to the business at hand.
"We're sorry for barging in like this," she apologized. "But we're investigating Wendall Jacob's murder and we were told you were a friend of his."
Cheryl's excitement at meeting Mr. Steele suddenly faded and she dropped onto the couch dejectedly.
"Yeah, Wendall was a good friend... even if he did live in Fantasyland half the time."
"Fantasyland?" Laura prodded gently.
Cheryl shrugged. "He loved playing games... you know, make believe." She tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear thoughtfully. "He never figured out that other people weren't playing... at least not the same game he was." She frowned at Laura in puzzlement. "I didn't know anybody was investigating Wendall's death."
"We are now," Laura informed her. "Is there any reason why someone would want to kill him?"
The girl shook her head. "I dunno. He was pretty harmless."
Laura decided on another track. "Were you aware he'd been sending threatening notes to George Hardwicke? And that he sent some to both David Richardson and Mr. Steele? He sent the last one right before he was shot."
Cheryl's face grew worried. "The notes to Mr. Hardwicke were a joke. Wendall didn't like his Watson... never had. That's all. The other ones I'm not so sure of. Wendall came home from the set one day talking about some big plot he'd overheard. He even said he'd seen somebody murdered."
"Home from the set?" That was a surprise to Laura. "Did he work at the studio?"
Cheryl laughed lightly. "Not hardly. He used to sneak on. It's not that difficult. He even took me with him a couple of times."
"Did he tell you who he'd seen murdered or who did it?"
The girl cast her eyes downward, her face flushed. "No. I laughed at him 'cause he was always playing games. So he never said anything else about it."
Laura hated to be the one to cause anyone pain, but she had to press the girl. "Didn't you think anything was strange when you heard George Hardwicke was dead?"
"But the news said it was an accident." Cheryl's voice had taken on a defensive tone. "I just thought Wendall was off on another one of his trips." She paused and Laura could see the truth suddenly sinking in on the poor woman's face. "You mean George Hardwicke really was murdered?"
"I'm afraid so," Laura admitted reluctantly.
Tears began to fall from Cheryl's big, blue eyes. "Oh my God," she whispered. "I should have listened to him."
As she began to sob softly, Laura dug into her purse and found a handkerchief. Giving it to the distraught young woman, she moved over to where Remington was perusing the tape collection with great interest.
"She can't help us really," Laura whispered. "Except now we know Wendall really was the target."
"I suppose that should make me feel better," Remington murmured. "Somehow though, it doesn't quite set things right." He paused, then focused on the videos once more. "This is a fabulous collection, Laura," he informed her appreciatively. "There are some very rare films here."
Laura felt her exasperation rise to the surface, wondering how he could be so torn up over a boy's murder one minute, then lost in movies the next.
"I'm so glad you're enjoying yourself," she stated, her voice dripping with sarcasm. "This is important, you know."
Remington didn't react to her tone. Instead, he pulled out a video. "So is this," he replied calmly. He showed her the title. "Galactic Voyagers. Sound familiar?"
Laura's irritation disappeared abruptly. "The movie George had written down."
Remington turned to address Cheryl. "Miss Crandall... you've got a copy of Galactic Voyagers. I wasn't aware it had been released to video yet."
The girl wiped at her eyes and sniffled. "It's not." She shrugged self-consciously. "It's sort of... um, bootlegged. I got it from a friend of a friend. You can get just about anything on tape nowadays... for the right price."
Remington pulled the list of movie titles they'd found in the locker and showed it to Laura.
"I think we just found out what all that money bought," she pronounced.
Remington flashed her a smile. "By George, I think she's got it!"
It was late and the activity level at the studio had dropped to a nearly imperceptible level. As the Steele limo pulled up to the main gate, Laura could see luck was in their favor. There was only one guard on duty. Hopefully this would go smoothly. She knew she really didn't have anything to worry about. When it came to bluff and swagger, Remington could out perform the best. She scrunched into the dark corner of the back seat as Fred brought the window down. She needed to stay out of sight for this to work.
"Remington Steele to see Jessica Martin," Fred announced briskly.
The guard checked his clipboard and shook his head. "Miss Martin isn't expecting anybody."
Fred glanced over his shoulder with exaggerated nervousness and Laura smiled at how easy their chauffeur fell into the roll. He wasn't a bad actor himself. He turned back to the guard and his voice dropped to a whisper. "But this is Remington Steele."
The man grew impatient that his authority had been questioned. "I don't care if it's Rin Tin Tin. If I don't have him listed, he ain't going in."
"But..." Fred sputtered.
"What seems to be the problem, Fred?" Remington questioned, his voice properly haughty and perturbed.
Laura saw the guard poke his head close to the driver's window, trying to peer inside. She was fairly certain he couldn't see her, but he'd be able to see Remington very well. Dressed in ultra chic, he was lounging in the back of the limo, apparently unconcerned.
"I'm sorry, sir," the guard apologized, his voice much more polite while addressing Steele. "But Miss Martin didn't leave word she was expecting a guest this evening."
Remington laughed capriciously. "Of course she didn't. Hardly something you want to broadcast to the whole world now, is it? Be a good fellow and keep it under your hat, won't you?"
Laura had to work hard to keep from laughing as the guard grew confused.
Remington leaned forward slightly and squinted at the man's badge. "Are you new here? Can't remember seeing you around... Stevens, is it?" He sighed heavily. "It's so hard finding people who know how to be discreet these days. I'll try and be kind when I mention your name to Jess. She can be so unreasonable when she loses her temper." He paused slightly for effect. "We wouldn't want her to lose her temper, would we?"
Laura could tell the guard was worried now. "Well..." he hedged. "I guess I could call and confirm..."
Now Remington went over the top. "Call her? Oh yes, by all means, shout it from the rooftops... bring in the media... she'll love that."
Remington tapped Fred on the shoulder. The chauffeur nodded crisply and flipped out a hundred dollar bill for the guard to see. Remington smiled slyly.
"Helps ease the guilt a bit, eh?"
The guard hesitated only an instant. He snatched the money quickly and backed away from the limo, waving it on.
Inside, Laura relaxed and exhaled noisily. "A hundred dollars was a bit ostentatious wasn't it?"
Remington flashed her a look that told her he was very pleased with himself. "Whatever does the trick. Besides, he wouldn't have believed anything less from Jessica Martin's current flame."
Laura merely rolled her eyes.
Laura slipped through the soundstage door quietly, trying to locate the main group of people working on the shoot. She couldn't see them, but she could definitely hear them.
"Cut." Laura could tell by the director's aggrieved tone that they'd been at this awhile. "Let's try that again," he continued. "And get it right this time, people. We all want to go home."
"Sorry, Kurt." That was David. "I can't seem to concentrate. I'll get it this time."
When the director spoke again, his voice had calmed and Laura could even detect the note of sympathy for his actor's emotional situation. "That's okay, David. Don't sweat it." His volume increased again. "All right people... one more time. Quiet down."
A loud and irritating buzzer sounded twice, causing Laura to cringe.
"We're on a bell, folks. Here we go."
It was time for Laura to move. She re-opened the outside door and slammed it shut again -- loudly this time. She heard the expected moans and groans and the buzzer sounded once more.
She rushed in, seeing Kurt with his head resting dejectedly on his folded arms. She ignored the security guard who'd spotted her and was heading her way, and she made a beeline straight for David.
"Oh, Mr. Richardson," she gushed anxiously. "I'm so glad you're still here. I was afraid everyone might have gone home by now."
"We live in hope," Kurt muttered.
David seemed startled and a bit surprised at seeing her. "What is it, Laura? We're a little busy here."
Laura glanced around at the sullen crew and pretending to only now realize she was intruding.
"I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt. I just wanted to return these Holmes book. You know, the ones you loaned to Mr. Hardwicke." She shrugged sadly. "I'm afraid they didn't help much."
David took the books from her, still unsure why she'd bothered. "Thank you, Laura, but you really didn't have to..."
"No, no," Laura insisted. "I wanted to get these to you. I know they were kind of special." She made of point of glancing down at the stack. "Oh my! There're not all here. A Study in Scarlet is missing." She thought a moment, then brightened. "I must have dropped it in the limo outside. I'll go get it for you."
She turned to go, but felt David grab her arm to stop her. He steered her toward an out of the way corner.
"It's all right, Laura. We can get the book later. Why don't you just wait here until we get this take. Then we'll be all finished here."
Laura felt bad for having to deceive her client, especially since she could tell he thought she'd gone a little crazy, but this had to play out.
"If that's okay. I wouldn't want to bother anyone."
Kurt sighed loudly. "It's fine by me. If we could just get on with it."
Laura gave him a smile and settled where she would be out of trouble, yet still have a good view of the entire set. She didn't see who left, but she could hear the fading footsteps and hear the outside door open and close. Good, she told herself. Somebody bought it.
It took only a few more minutes to finish the scene and when it was done, Laura signaled David over urgently. Not sparing the time to explain, she grabbed the actor by the arm and headed outside. She had to give the man credit. He followed without wasting time demanding answers and explanations.
When they came out into the parking lot, they stopped at the sight of Ed Baxter standing by the Steele limo. The front passenger door was open and he was frantically tearing at the covers of the missing book. Laura let him search for a moment, then stepped up where he could see her.
"Looking for this, Mr. Baxter?" She held up the key.
The man turned, his face panicked at the sight of them. Then abruptly he smiled broadly. "Yeah. As a matter of fact, we were."
At his use of the word we, Laura whirled to find Mike Egan, a gun trained on them. He still wore a pleasant smile on his face.
"Thanks for helping us find it," he stated.
"It figures there would be more than one person involved," Laura stated calmly.
Mike stepped up and took the key from Laura's hand.
"That's right. Guess you're as smart as you are pretty. Unfortunately, there won't be enough to share with anybody."
"That's a bit greedy, isn't it, mate?"
Now it was Laura's turn to smile as Remington stepped out from the darkness and made a grab for Mike's gun. The man wasn't ready to give it up easily and began to struggle for it. In the scramble, Ed took off running. Before Laura could stop him, David impulsively gave chase.
At the same time Mike managed to deliver a stunning blow to Remington, who went down hard. Ignoring the fleeing special effects man, Laura raced to Remington's side.
"Are you all right," she cried.
He was trying to get to his feet, so she grabbed him around the waist to help him up. He grimaced painfully, but held up the gun.
"At least I got this," he panted.
"Great," Laura commented wryly. "Can you move?" He nodded determinedly. "Then come on."
Once his legs were steady, they set off after Mike. In the dark the studio was a maze of buildings, equipment, dressing rooms and a million other obstacles. It became obvious very shortly that they had no idea which way to go.
They stopped briefly at a junction of two alleys. Laura glanced up at Remington, who shrugged and took off in a random direction. Laura followed him, afraid their prey had already eluded them. About halfway down their chosen path, Remington stumbled over something, narrowly avoiding falling. Close on his heels, Laura had to work to keep from knocking him over herself as she collided into his back.
A soft moan brought her attention down to the ground and she stooped to find David sprawled there.
"My god," she breathed. "Are you okay?"
"I think so." The actor was dazed, but appeared only shaken. Remington reached out a hand to help him to his feet. "He got a jump on me in the dark."
Laura took in the sight of her two battered companions. She planted her hands on her hips. "This is ridiculous," she exclaimed in frustration. "We'll never catch them like this. They know the studio better than we do. Besides, they're probably off the lot by now anyway."
"Not to worry, Laura," Remington assured her. "I left Fred at the gate to meet the police. They'll be there to catch them in the net of justice, so to speak."
"Are all the exits covered?" she inquired.
Remington nodded. "Front and back."
David glanced up from rubbing the back of his head. "But there's another way out," he protested. "Only studio personnel know about it."
Remington's eyebrows raised with delight. "A secret escape route?"
David chuckled lightly. "Basically. Sometimes the adoring public can be a little too adoring. You have to have a way around them or you'd never get home at night."
Laura grabbed David's arm to get him moving. "You want to show us where it is? Maybe we can extend the net just a bit."
"Nice to see you again so soon, gentlemen."
Both Mike Egan and Ed Baxter were caught off guard by the sight of Remington Steele, hands stuffed in the pockets of his jacket, leaning casually against the unmarked gate. Ed was the first to recover his startled wits.
"Ya wanna get outta the way," he threatened.
Remington maintained his nonchalance. "Oh? Were you planning on going somewhere? I think you'd better postpone your plans by, oh say, fifty or sixty years. It is life imprisonment they give for murder, isn't it? Though I'm not quite sure what the penalty for video piracy is."
"I guess you think you're pretty clever, Steele." Mike's expression had finally grown dark. "I don't suppose you'd be interested in a percentage..."
"Hey," Ed protested, but Mike cut him off.
"Shut up!" he ordered harshly. He turned back to Steele. "How does 30% sound?"
Remington smiled regretfully. "I'm afraid I'll have to decline your generous offer, gentlemen. While a private investigator may not top the list of big money professions, I am rather fond of not having the police breathing down my neck."
"It's your choice." Mike shrugged indifferently. "But there are two of us and only one of you. You won't stop us."
Remington allowed his smile to broaden. "Oh, but I brought a couple of friends."
Laura and David stepped in from the darkness and positioned themselves on either side of Steele.
"So you see," Remington went on conversationally. "It's two against three actually. And if that doesn't discourage you, I've got a little extra persuasion." He pulled the gun from his pocket.
The two men exchanged a glance, then Mike let loose a loud guffaw. Both men moved forward until they stood within arms' reach. Concerned at their attitude, Remington straightened up, extending the gun.
"Joke's on you, Steele," Ed informed him. "It's a fake... a prop. We don't keep real guns on the set."
"Yeah," Mike added with a triumphant grin. "Somebody might get hurt."
Remington stared at the gun for a brief moment, then glanced at David. The actor nodded imperceptibly. In one fluid motion, Remington tossed the gun aside and both he and David stepped forward and each threw a forceful blow. The two culprits went down and stayed there.
Remington winced at the pain in his hand, noting that David was doing the same thing. He chuckled softly. It always seemed so easy in the movies. Suddenly he heard the sound of applause and looked up to see Laura clapping. Smiling self-consciously, he moved over to put an arm around her. He hit an obstacle as he did so and realized David had done the same thing. Both men stopped and Remington sent the actor a mock scowl. In an instant they all three indulged in a triumphant hug.
The atmosphere in Steele's apartment was comfortable. With dinner over and conversation winding down, David was taking his leave.
"It really is a pity George and that poor boy had to die for two men's greed," the actor commented sadly.
Laura handed him his overcoat. "Video piracy is rampant these days. It pays so well some people just can't resist the temptation."
David shook his head, still finding the whole thing hard to believe. "And all because I picked up the wrong copy of a book at that shop."
Remington was standing at the fireplace, an untouched glass of wine in his hand. "And you loaned it to George. When Egan and Baxter traced the book to him, they tried to cut him in on their deal. Poor George had too much integrity to go along with them. Those men killed him rather than let him go to the authorities."
"But George made sure I got the book back so someone might catch them." David smiled slightly. "A small boost for justice, I suppose."
Remington placed a hand on the actor's shoulder in a consoling gesture. "One boost at a time is all anyone can do, eh?"
"As long as we keep trying," Laura added.
David was suddenly having a hard time controlling his emotions. He glanced self-consciously at both detectives. "Yes, well... I suppose I should really go. I'm not quite sure how to adequately thank you." He turned to Remington. "I do have something here for you, Mr. Steele. It's a gift from the Calabashes. They thought you might appreciate it."
He produced a small, wrapped package from his coat and handed it to Remington. He then leaned over and pecked Laura on the cheek.
"Thanks again... both of you."
With those words, the actor made his exit.
As Laura closed the door, Remington unwrapped his gift. He revealed a beautiful, long-stemmed Calabash. Delighted, he put the pipe to his mouth and struck a dignified pose for Laura's benefit.
"What do you think?" he asked between clenched teeth. "Could I have given Basil Rathbone a run for his money?"
Laura pretended to consider a moment. "Possibly," she conceded, than moved closer so he could encircle her with his arm. She reached up and removed the pipe from his mouth. "I'm not so sure Mr. Rathbone could have thought so quickly on his feet when that gun turned out to be a phoney."
Remington inclined his head, acknowledging his own merit. "Well, not everyone has such a fine-honed sense of timing, balance and...
"Self-preservation?" Laura suggested playfully.
Remington smiled and replaced the pipe. He grabbed Laura up with both arms.
"Elementary, my dear Holt."