Author: gilmoradict PM
April 19 was Madeleine Gilbert's birthday. To celebrate, and in memory of her, I am publishing a story to hopefully in some small way honor her, giving nod to her superior talents. For you, MG.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Humor - Remington S. & Laura H. - Chapters: 7 - Words: 11,729 - Reviews: 17 - Favs: 1 - Follows: 4 - Updated: 09-26-12 - Published: 04-25-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8057883
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Pulling sunglasses from his face, he pushed the heavy glass door open. The dark haired man paused for a beat, scanning those milling about the lobby of the Century Plaza Towers. Years of surveillance in his current line of work, and, it must be admitted, even more years of wariness lest some disgruntled associate from a somewhat scurrilous business transaction be lying in wait, had developed in this startlingly handsome man a habit of constant alertness. A pair of tailored suits who walked briskly by him, a small woman seated in an easy chair, checking her reflection in a hand-held mirror, the receptionist who smiled warmly at him as she caught his eye - nothing aroused suspicion of any kind on this sunny morning in spring. His piercing blue eyes crinkled briefly as he returned the receptionist's greeting with a crisp nod and stepped lightly through the closing doors of the elevator.
In mere seconds Remington Steele stood in front the silver lettered doors of Suite 1157, the Remington Steele Detective Agency. He allowed himself a swift smile at the sight, stopping to polish his right, and then his left shoe on the opposite pant leg. Hard to believe it had been nearly four years since he had first walked through these doors, assuming a role and a life that suited him better than he could have possibly imagined.
Steele's warm, "Good morning, darling!" earned him a bright smile from the agency's secretary and detective-in-training, Mildred.
"There you are, Mr. Steele! The boss has been waiting for you."
"Has she, now. That hurts a little, Mildred. The boss. Really?" Steele's grin belied the admonishment as he winked at Mildred and hurried into Laura's office with a quick rap to the closed red door.
"Laura! Up with the birds, were you? I've always admired that Protestant work ethic you bring to the agency. No wasted moments. More done before breakfast than many accomplish in a day." Steele leveled a bemused gaze on the petite brunette, who upon his arrival rose from her desk chair and began gathering the contents of a file folder, her purse and her coat.
"Some of us have work to do, Mr. Steele. Com'on. I dropped the surveillance photos we took yesterday off with Elliot first thing this morning. He should have them ready for us now."
Steele took Laura's coat and held it while she shrugged into it. As she moved toward the office door, he snagged her wrist delicately between his thumb and forefinger, pulling the surprised woman back to face him. Leaning in, Steele gently, but thoroughly kissed Laura, his warm and demanding lips drawing her attention fully to him in that moment.
"I hope, Miss Holt," Steele finally murmured in her ear, "Your dreams last night were as lovely as mine. Someday I'm not going to be willing to tear myself away from you after an evening spent in your company."
Swaying slightly as she stood in front of him, Laura slowly opened her dark eyes and drew in a steadying breath.
"Focus, Mr. Steele. Work, remember?" Straightening her shoulders, the agency's founder and actual head, pushed herself firmly way from the circle of Steele's arms. As she turned away from Steele she closed her eyes for a second and swallowed hard before leading the way through the door, past a smirking Mildred, and toward the elevator.
Laura scanned briefly through the stack of photos before slipping them neatly into the file folder and sliding behind the wheel of her white Volkswagen Rabbit. She handed the folder to Steele and peeled away from the curb, throwing the usually poised man against the door.
"Really, Laura, is it necessary to rush? Our little bookseller isn't going anywhere, is he?" Steele complained mildly, once he had righted himself and straightened his tailored suit coat.
"Mr. Standusty is paying us good money to locate his missing rare books." She risked a glimpse at Steele as she paused briefly at a light. "You're a reader. I know you are. And familiar a certain element. Who is our most likely culprit here? It takes an unusual individual to recognize the value of these books. A high end thief working for an eccentric collector?"
"Certainly you don't imagine I would have any connections to any criminal element in the city? I really have no idea..."
Laura merely rolled her eyes at Steele, allowing a smile to lurk briefly on her lips. While she firmly believed Steele had reformed himself in recent years, she was under no illusions as to his past. It was part of what made him so GOOD at helping her solve crimes - he recognized the mind, and a good many of the faces, of a thief. Laura Holt was as good or better a detective than any out there, but she also had developed confidence in her partner's ability to see all angles of a case and to provide insights into who or what they might be looking for.
Sure enough, Steele began thoughtfully skimming through the photos in the file, pausing as he held up one of a young woman with thick, dark hair.
"See something, Mr. Steele?"
"This woman seems familiar. I don't know that she has anything to do with this case, but I think I've seen her somewhere before."
As they pulled up in front of "The Dusty Bookshelf", Laura glanced at the photo in his hand, before adding it to the file with the others. "Let me know if you come up with anything concrete, Mr. Steele."
Steele waited for Laura to walk around the car and the two approached the bookstore together. Windows painted in layers of shiny forrest green framed the book lovers paradise that lay within. Immediately visible were end tables stacked high with books, two worn easy chairs inviting browsers to settle in and lose themselves in their choices, as well as homey lamps strategically placed to facilitate reading. Great looming shelves, burgeoning with heavy volumes rose behind these, dust motes floating enticingly in the lamp lit spaces between. A bell tinkled to announce the detective's arrival as they peered around the door and into the shop.
A groan greeted them.
Rushing to the source of the moan, Laura and Steele found their way impeded by disordered stacks of books pulled from a shelf toward the back of the shop. Their newest client, Mr. Standusty, lay under a pile of loose books. Steele and Laura began pulling them off of him, gently helping him to sit up once most of the heavy volumes had been removed.
"Mr. Standusty, are you all right? What happened?" Laura inquired gently, peering into the old man's face.
Groaning again, Standusty rubbed the back of his head, holding his shattered glasses out to inspect them mournfully. "You came along not long after I was attacked by this old bookshelf. I'll have to call Sheila to bring me my extra pair of glasses."
Mr. Standusty seemed not to react when a door clicked shut in the rear of the shop.
"Is there anyone else here with you, Mr. Standusty?" Laura asked.
"No - I had just opened the doors for the morning, and was looking for a volume by Melville when I stumbled into the shelf and books started raining down on me!"
"Mr. Steele, would you be good enough to stay here with Mr. Standusty while I call for help." Laura walked swiftly to the rear of the shop, peering out the rear entrance into an empty alleyway.
"Just a drink of water would help, my dear, just a drink," Standusty called after her.
"You took quite a knock to your head. We'll want to be sure you're not too badly injured." Steele placed a bracing hand on the man's shoulder while he looked inquiringly at Laura, who shook her head at him while stepping to the phone at the counter.
Within minutes emergency services had arrived and Mr. Standusty was being evaluated. As Laura and Steele waited off to the side, an all too familiar voice grated on their ears. "Laura Holt and Remington Steele, as I live and breath. Why is it I always seem to find you at my crime scenes?"
"Jimmy." and "Detective Jarvis." The two turned as one to face the baby faced officer. Steele continued in a cool voice. "What a distinct...pleasure."
"What seems to be the problem, sir? I hope these 'detectives' aren't somehow involved in this incident here this morning."
"No, no, no. These are my rescuers! I'm a clumsy old man who somehow was buried in his own books!" a somewhat recovered Standusty assured Detective Jarvis.
Jarvis' smile failed to reach his eyes as he gave the disarray in the shop a slow, sweeping look, before stopping to level his gaze on the two detectives in front of him.
Unfazed by this perusal, Steele inquired, "Isn't responding to 911 calls a bit beneath you, Jarvis?"
"Not when the call comes from Miss Holt, and I know YOU'RE likely mixed up in whatever's going on. The LAPD has developed a particular interest in you, Mr. Steele."
"I'm touched, Jarvis, though my life is an open book. If you have any questions for me, I'll be happy to answer them. If not, we'll let you get on with your day."
Laura looked between the two with a slightly puzzled frown, before turning her attention to her client. "I called your niece, Mr. Standusty. She's stopping by your place to pick up your extra glasses. Mr. Steele, perhaps we should help clean up this mess."
The paramedics began walking out with their equipment and Jarvis backed slowly and thoughtfully away from the detectives before turning to follow them out of the shop.
"What do suppose that was all about?" Laura asked Steele quietly.
The bell above the shop door jingled, as a short, dark haired woman walked through the door, only to be pushed aside as a second, obviously distressed woman, bustled past her crying out, "Uncle David! Are you all right?"