"Sixteen," Remington Steele pondered as he leaned back in his office chair. "Laura, she's barely sixteen. Do you really think she's ready to go off to college?"
"Yes," his wife answered as she sat on the corner of the desk. "I mean, she's always been wise beyond her years. I think she'll be able to handle herself. She'll be in a dorm at Stanford," she told him. "It's not like we're just shoving her out on her own. Our little girl is growing up fast, Mr. Steele."
"Faster than I care to think about, Mrs. Steele."
"I know," Laura said, leaning in for a kiss.
The quick kiss of assurance quickly became heated, as things usually did with the Steeles, and neither of them noticed the opening of the office door.
"Really. You two… and I thought this was a place of business."
Remington and Laura looked up at their visitor, who was smiling like the cat who swallowed the proverbial canary. Laura moved away from her husband's embrace and around to the front of his desk.
"Michael," she said. "I really thought you would have tired of little Lisa by now."
"Never," Remington answered with a wink in his wife's direction.
"Hello, Felicia," Laura offered.
"It's still Laura," Mrs. Steele said, standing to face the other woman.
Felicia looked from Laura to Remington and back again.
"I need your help," she said.
Laura looked from Felicia to Remington and fought back the temptation to roll her eyes. Would she ever be rid of "old friends" from his past coming back for help? There was no telling what Felicia could ask for…of course, it did bode well that she'd actually made her request in Laura's presence. That gave Laura some hope that whatever it was it would be legal, at the very least.
Remington caught her gaze and cautiously addressed their guest. "What is it, Felicia?"
"I'm being framed," she said, walking toward the window.
This time, Laura gave in and let her eyes roll. She did have the grace to hold back the laughter that was bubbling up within her, however. And it was Felicia who caught her reaction and addressed her.
"You've never cared for me and have no reason to trust me," she said. "Which makes it all the more serious that I'm here, don't you think?"
Laura had to agree that the assessment made sense.
Remington sat back and watched… mostly to observe Felicia as he hoped he'd be able to know if she were telling the truth, but also because even after all these years he was still uncomfortable being alone with these particular women. The tension between the two was palpable.
"Go on," Laura said, crossing her arms as she leaned against the front of Remington's desk. She indicated for Felicia to have a seat in the chair in front of the desk as Remington walked around to stand next to her.
"You see," Felicia went on slowly, with long pauses as she watched the Steeles listen to her story, "there have been some… burglaries…"
Laura scoffed and Remington shot her a scolding look.
"What kind of burglaries?" Remington asked.
"What kind do you imagine, darling? The kind that require skill and cunning…" She smiled at him knowingly.
He couldn't help but smile slightly in response, and then he reached up to tug on his collar as he felt the heat from his wife's gaze.
"…there have been several jewel thefts and some art thefts as well… in various locations around the Continent…"
"And just what can we do help you, Felicia?" Laura asked, losing patience with her former adversary.
This time, it was Felicia who let out the longsuffering sigh.
"These burglaries have each been quite similar to some of my past… indiscretions."
"But you haven't been involved," Remington prompted.
"Of course not, darling. You know I've been walking the straight and narrow for some years now."
She'd never admit it in front of Laura, but she hadn't felt physically up to such exploits for longer than she cared to think about.
"Then what's the problem?" Laura asked.
"Whoever is behind it claims that they have left enough evidence to link me to the thefts and has threatened to send the police looking at me if I don't acquire for them a certain canvas."
"What canvas?" Laura asked, looking up at her husband.
"The Five Nudes of Cairo," Felicia answered, looking directly at Remington.
He turned to his wife and could see her seething. Calmly, he turned back to their guest.
"Felicia, darling," he said. "Will you excuse us a moment?"
He took Laura by the elbow and led her through the connecting door into her own office.
"Oh, no," Laura said as he closed the door behind them
"Laura," he pleaded.
"Remington, I can't believe you're even considering this!" she said, trying to keep her voice down.
"Considering what, Laura? We don't even know what she's asking yet."
"Of course we do. She wants you to steal that damned painting." She was breathing heavily as she paced the office. She stopped and turned on her heel to face her husband. "Need I remind you, Mr. Steele, that the last time she needed your help retrieving that painting, you ended up hanging upside down in a warehouse and I spent the night in jail?"
"I think we need to at least hear her out, darling."
"Don't. Don't even think of trying to placate me. And don't call me 'darling' when she's in the next room."
"She's an old friend in trouble," he said.
And she softened as she had so many times over the years when he'd said those very words. After all, his compassion was one of the things she loved so much about him.
"Do you really believe that story about someone framing her?"
"It makes sense," Remington said. "And why would she lie? What could she possibly gain from it?"
That was what Laura was determined to find out.
"Let's have her over for dinner this evening," she said. "Maybe I can get a better feel for why she's really here."
Remington was determined to believe his old friend, but he completely understood Laura's feelings. Though they were absolutely secure in their marriage, there were still times when each of them could be rocked by something from the other's past. And he knew that his past held more surprises than hers. He was just glad that now it was Laura's first inclination to believe him rather than jump to the usually more obvious and always more nefarious conclusion.
Laura sighed as she collapsed on the sofa.
"Long day, Mrs. Steele?" Remington asked with a grin as he went back to his task of cleaning up the dinner dishes.
Laura smiled back at him.
"I just don't have the energy to deal with Felicia right now," she said. "I mean, we've just gotten through Kate's graduation …"
Remington turned to his wife as she stopped talking. "Laura?"
She shook her head in an effort to pull herself from her reverie. "I'm sorry, sweetheart," she said. "I was just thinking."
"You mentioned Kate's graduation," he said, reminding her where they were in the conversation.
"She's so excited about Stanford," Laura said. "She wants so much to be a college girl, and still maintain her relationships with her friends her own age."
"This sounds like the conversation we had when she went into high school just before she turned thirteen."
"I know," Laura said, remembering with a sigh. "She was at an awkward age, and for Kate it was even worse. She completely missed middle school…"
Remington set the dishtowel down on the counter and walked over to sit next to his wife. He put his arm around her and she leaned into his embrace.
"… She's doing all right, isn't she?" he asked.
"She says she is," Laura answered.
"And her grades never suffered," Remington added. "She's got lots of friends. I think she's doing just fine."
It wasn't really her school life that Laura was worried about. Kate was outgoing and gregarious, she'd always made friends easily. She was brilliant, and inquisitive… sometimes too inquisitive. Laura didn't have the heart to tell her husband what had really been on her mind. She'd been thinking it might be time to tell Kate the truth about "Remington Steele". Kate was mature for her age and bright beyond her years as well. Laura was sure her daughter would understand why her parents had done what they'd done all those years ago. If she allowed herself the truth, Laura was more concerned about what impact telling her might have on Remington.
And dinner had been an unmitigated disaster, though Remington hadn't noticed. He didn't see the way his daughter hung on Felicia's every word, but Laura couldn't miss it. She wouldn't swear to it, but she thought she noticed Kate trying to copy the other woman's mannerisms.
"I don't want her hanging around Felicia," Laura said, in what seemed an abrupt change of gears.
"Felicia's harmless, darling," he said, pulling Laura close and kissing her temple.
"I wouldn't bet on it," she said. "I know she doesn't mean any harm, but right now her presence could be devastating."
"I think you're being a bit overdramatic," he said softly. "She's an old friend and she came to us for help."
"I just don't understand it," Remington said, pacing his office. "How could you possibly get involved with Cameron again?"
"I didn't have a choice, darling."
"Oh, come now, Felicia. We always have choices."
"Well, Michael, this time I truly didn't."
He turned to face her when he heard the obvious distress in her voice.
"You see," she went on, "I didn't exactly tell you the whole truth yesterday…"
"I didn't know how much I wanted to say in front of Lisa."
"Her name is Laura, and if you want my help… our help, you tell us both everything."
"Julian didn't threaten me with the police," she said quietly.
"What did he threaten you with?"
"He has Giselle."
"So," Mildred said, walking into Laura's office. "What's the blonde barracuda want?"
"What?" Laura asked, looking up from the report she was going over.
"Felicia," Mildred replied. "I saw her leaving his office, and Sharon told me she was here last night."
"Yes, that. What gives, hon?"
"She says she's in trouble," Laura answered with as much nonchalance as she could muster.
"That one is trouble, if you ask me," Mildred said. "Trouble with a capital 'T'."
"That may be so, Mildred," Laura said. "But she's one of Mr. Steele's oldest friends and she came here asking for our help."
"And I thought the chief was a softie," Mildred said with a chuckle.
"It is what we do, you know," Laura said, matching her friend's amusement.
They were silent for a moment as Laura turned serious.
"She says that someone is setting her up," she said. "There have been several burglaries around Europe that reek of her signature."
"But she didn't do it," Mildred offered sarcastically.
"Felicia swears she hung up her catsuit years ago," Laura said.
"And you believe her?"
"None of us are getting any younger," Laura lamented. "I know it's getting difficult for me, and at the risk of being indelicate… Felicia's got a few years on me."
"That's true," Mildred said with a laugh.
"Anyway, apparently whoever is behind these burglaries has set a trap for Felicia," Laura went on. "They want her to steal something for them, and if she doesn't they'll send the police in her direction for the other burglaries."
"What do they want her to steal?"
"You're not going to believe it," Laura said.
"Don't tell me."
"The gems of Royal Lavulite," they said in unison.
Laura laughed as Mildred's mouth hung open.
"No," Laura said. "I'm only kidding. But it's almost as bad… a painting called The Five Nudes of Cairo. It's supposedly cursed and both she and my husband have a long and sordid history with the piece."
"So, what are we going to do?"
"Yes, we," Mildred replied. "This agency is still a team, is it not?"
"Absolutely," Laura said, "but this one is pretty dangerous and there could be a lot of heat. I think that Mr. Steele and I should handle it on our own. I'll need you to keep things running around here. Murphy and Danny can handle the legwork on our current cases…"
"…And just where will you be?"
"Paris," Laura answered.
"I don't believe this, Remington," Laura spat. She stood staring at him, hands on hips. "She lied to us? Why? And how do you know she's telling the truth now?"
"Believe me, love, she won't keep anything from us again. She thought she was protecting Giselle."
"Giselle?" Laura scoffed. "Who's that? Her poodle?"
"Her daughter," he said again, softly.
"Felicia has a daughter? Why didn't I know about this? How old is she? Where is she?"
"She's twenty-six, living in Paris…and we don't talk about her…"
"We? Oh God, is she… are you…?"
"No! No. No. No," Remington said, reaching out to take his wife in his arms. "She's not my daughter. Don't you think I would have told you if I had a child? We've been together more than twenty years; do you think I would have kept something like that from you?"
"Of course not," she answered, settling in to his embrace. "I'm sorry. I just never think clearly when it comes to that woman."
Laura allowed herself only a moment of marital reassurance before switching to detective mode. She changed gears so quickly that Remington knew there would be much more discussion about Giselle before this was all said and done.
"So, how is stealing The Five Nudes going to protect Giselle? And what does she need protecting from?"
"Julian Cameron. He's an Irish industrialist… art collector… Has always been a bit shady, but apparently he's gotten in to some really nasty stuff."
"According to Felicia, he's connected to a ring of Russian flesh peddlers," he said, watching his wife closely. "And he's threatened to turn Giselle over to them."
"Oh my God," she said, drawing her hand to her mouth.
"He won't do it."
"What makes you so sure?"
"He's always been in love with Felicia. I have a feeling this is more about getting Felicia than getting the painting."
"You're awfully nonchalant about this," Laura said, sternly. "Someone is threatening to sell this young woman as a sex slave, and you can sit there calmly and say it's not about the painting? I'm beginning to believe in that damned curse."
"Laura," he said, taking her hand in his. "Cameron is in love with Felicia. He saw the painting as a way to get her back in his orbit. I'm not entirely sure there is a Russian slave ring, but I do know he's not going to hurt Giselle."
"How could you possibly know that?"
"He's her father."
"Does he know that?"
"No, but I think he's suspected for some years now. Thing is, I think Felicia is in love with him, too. "
"So, what are we going to do about it?"
"We're going to keep to the plan," he said. "Go to Paris and find Giselle."
"And reunite her parents?"
"What about the painting?"
"Ah, Mrs. Steele," he said with a smile. "You do love a good heist, don't you? Yes, I think we might have a go at the ladies, as well."
"I'll get it, Maria," Kate said, running for the front door.
She opened the door to find a messenger standing before her.
"I have a package for Remington Steele," he said.
"I'll take it," Kate said, reaching out for the flat envelope.
The messenger handed her his clipboard to sign for receipt of the package. She noticed that there was a return address on the envelope. It was an address in Paris.
Why would someone put a return address on a hand-delivered letter? She thought. But then realized that since the letter had come from Paris, it probably had something to do with Felicia and her parents' current case.
Felicia intrigued her. She was elegant and sophisticated, and she reminded Kate a lot of her own father. She wondered about how the woman knew her parents, but she had a fair idea that she was part of the "mysterious past" she'd occasionally heard her parents talk about. Whenever they mentioned it, they'd made sure she wasn't around and they were either whispering or shouting… but never was it a typically normal conversation.
She'd also noticed the way her mother looked at Felicia---it wasn't jealousy, exactly, but it was obvious to Kate that her mother was not comfortable having Felicia around, especially around her father. Her mother was also less than enthused when her father suggested that his old friend stay with them at the beach house. He'd said that if someone were after her, it made more sense to keep her close. Her mother had reluctantly agreed. That worked out well for Kate, who planned to find out more about her father's so-called "mysterious past" and his friendship with Ms. Simone after her parents left for France.
Kate had been working on her interrogation techniques. Danny told her that she was too excited when she was on to something. If she wanted to be taken seriously as an investigator, she had to be able to question someone with a more casual air. He told her to practice asking questions and trying not to come off like an over-excited teenager. She shook her head at the memory. Danny had been a great mentor since she'd started working at the agency after school, but he still loved to tease her like an older brother. Questioning Felicia was going to be a great way to test out Danny's advice.
She took the letter and went up to her room, where she planned to phone her parents and tell them about the contents of the letter. She sat down at her desk and opened the letter.
I hope you didn't think I'd forgotten about you. I've been waiting for the day we'd meet again… I'm looking forward to seeing you and the five ladies. It will be a reunion neither of us will ever forget.
Kate opened her laptop and began to search for information on Luc Desmarais. She couldn't find much on the man, only a news article from the year she was born about a traffic accident. The man's brother, Philippe Desmarais, was killed while being chased by police from the scene of a museum robbery.
Museum robbery? Kate thought. This case was supposedly about getting a painting called The Five Nudes of Cairo. Her dad had told her a little bit about the painting and the curse that was said to surround it. She knew it couldn't be a coincidence that this man's brother was apparently involved in an art theft and now he was contacting her parents just as they were involved with this painting and the threat against Felicia. She realized that she couldn't call her parents now. She'd be in big trouble for eavesdropping on their conversations about the case. But if she could somehow bring some information that could help solve the case, they couldn't be mad at her… could they?