Blushing Steele

By Lauryn Poynor



Acts:  One/ Two/ Three/ Four

ACT ONE

EXT. – COLISEUM -- DAY (TO ESTABLISH)

PHOTOGRAPHER: Miss, you’re in the shot!

LAURA: [steps aside, nearly trampled by the onrushing press pack. Steele proceeds like a film star along the red carpet to the entrance as flashbulbs strobe in a frenzy]

INT. – A PRIVATE DINING ROOM -- DAY 

STEELE: [moving through the throng, Laura back at his side] And they say lightning never strikes twice! Not so hard to believe that I should be chosen again, eh? 

LAURA: [sniffs]  I find it hard to believe they found another publisher.

STEELE: You’re an excellent gumshoe, Miss Holt, but -- trust me on this – wherever one finds a deep human need, there’s money to be made. 

LAURA: [with tight-lipped virtue] Spoken like a consummate con artist. 

STEELE: You could say ‘LA Upbeat Magazine’ provides a public service. 

LAURA: All the fluff that’s fit to print? 

STEELE: Precisely. Give the people what they want. And they want to find that Most Eligible Bachelor -- Remington Steele, neatly tucked inside the covers. [off her look]  Of their magazine, of course. 

LAURA: [wrinkling her nose] If they can find him between all the ads for celebrity perfumes and spray-on tan. 

STEELE: Ever the tireless skeptic. [smiles and waves to a flock of new admirers] I remind you that these people think you work for me. Adore me. Hang on my every word.

LAURA: Rabble.

STEELE: Ergo, a few amens from your corner wouldn’t go amiss. 

LAURA: [with irritation] You want to hear the Hallelujah Chorus? Hire the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Or maybe you’d prefer your own personal cheerleader. Like Millicent the pom-pom queen. 

STEELE: Pity about Miss Fairbush. Appearances can be deceiving, eh? 

LAURA: [matter of fact] It’s a male design flaw. Your brains shut off in close proximity to blondes. 

STEELE: [looks up as a single-minded and attractive female approaches, the magazine’s editor, Moriah Taylor, a woman in a man’s world, but one who likes men as much as she likes taking charge] Ah, Miss Taylor! 

MORIAH: Mr. Steele! [they clasp hands in greeting] How delightful to see you again! Many are called but few – until now – are chosen twice. 

STEELE: [brightly] A signal honor. Well, now that I’m back for an encore, where do you want me?

MORIAH: [flirtatious, but still hard underneath, eager to get the star-making machinery cranking] I could answer that in so many ways, but sooner or later, we have to get you out of these clothes.

STEELE: Really? [does a double take

MORIAH: Not that you don’t look absolutely stunning in that suit, but it’s not by one of our featured designers.

LAURA: [smugly] Mr. Steele’s tailor is very exclusive.

STEELE: [eager not to offend] True, almost to a fault -- but he’s Italian and terribly temperamental.  Be that as it may, I’m willing to do what I can to be more, err, accessible to your readership.

LAURA: [with mock secretarial deference] Accessibility is our new watchword, Mr. Steele? I didn’t get the memo. 

STEELE: Would you excuse us for a moment, Miss Taylor? [he propels Laura a short distance away, sensing the early onset of another hot and cold running argument] You seem awfully keen to rain on this parade.

LAURA: You seem awfully keen to lower your standards. 

STEELE: You know me better than that. I didn’t use Remington Steele’s name to hawk pillows, and I’m not starting with off-the-peg suits.  You just wanted to get in your little dig at the magazine! 

LAURA:  [jerks her chin in the air] Why not? It’s a celebrity-pandering rag that shoves its shallow lifestyle down women’s throats! Not to mention that the last time we got involved with this bachelor business you nearly lost life and limb! 

STEELE: [pained at the memory] Limbs, Miss Holt, and yes, the magazine is a rag, but it’s a rag with a devoted subscriber list of over a hundred thousand. You’re the one that insists that I stay on the publicity roundabout. 

LAURA: That was before I knew you were going to grovel.

STEELE: Ah, how conveniently ‘above the fray’!  You don’t mind the results on the balance sheets. 

LAURA: Neither would Moriah Taylor. Though I’m sure she’d rather have you between some other sheets as well.

STEELE: You’re a woman of the world, Laura. I should think you’d take this all in stride. 

LAURA: [crosses her arms] ‘Woman of the world.’ Nice try. But if you think that means I’m going to stand here, cheering both of you on while you --

STEELE: A dash of seduction is all part of the game. The business world thrives on it. Salesmanship, it’s called. 

LAURA: [with scorching sarcasm] Is it really?

STEELE: I’m sure one of your pining old boyfriends from Stanford ‘B’ School could explain it to you – with the aid of a few charts and graphs. 

LAURA: Now who’s acting jealous?  Just don’t say that I’m the one who should be sensible when we’re here with a bunch of grown men scrambling like mad to be the cover boy of a silly magazine. [beat] Some even want to get in line twice. 

STEELE: [exhales wearily] Look, this isn’t getting us anywhere. Laura, all I ask is that for the duration, you fake a little enthusiasm. You can do that, can’t you? [his plea is arguably desperate, but not without charm

LAURA: …You mean… lie back, close my eyes, and think of the agency? [she hadn’t meant to put it in quite those terms; it conjured horizontal thoughts that were the devil to keep at bay

STEELE: That’s an excellent start. [he raises a speculative eyebrow; Laura’s mood, he well knows, can turn on a dime in the midst of a blinding row]

LAURA: [beginning to weaken] I suppose the publicity couldn’t hurt… 

STEELE: [his voice, low in her ear, is like silk] Let’s make headlines together, eh?

MORIAH: [suddenly there between them] Shall we press on, Mr. Steele? 
LAURA: [tightly, under her breath] I spoke too soon. 

MORIAH: We have to keep things moving. Sadly, the amount of face time you have with our readers is rather limited. 

LAURA: [under her breath] No problem there. So is their attention span.

STEELE: Ahem, yes, a thousand apologies for the delay, but Miss Holt does so enjoy our little pep talks! [urges Laura forward, hand at her back

MORIAH: I’m sure they’re highly motivational. 

LAURA: [with mock adulation] Oh, yes! Soon he’ll have his own line of self help books!

MORIAH: [entirely missing the sarcasm] Really? Maybe we can do some cross-promotion. 

STEELE: [having to play along] Ah, actually, the project’s still in the exploratory stage.

LAURA: Don’t be so modest, sir. [yanking Moriah’s chain] Talk shows are booking him as we speak. 

MORIAH: [half-panicked at the thought, but she covers it well] One must take care not to be over-exposed, Mr. Steele. We are preparing an exclusive feature.

STEELE: [shoots Laura a dirty look] Miss Holt, clear my calendar for the next month at least. [to Moriah] Put your mind at ease, Miss Taylor. 

MORIAH: [a purr in her voice] I promise I won’t let an inch of you go to waste. 

STEELE [eyes Laura to see if the flirtation is getting under her skin. He’s pleased to find she looks supremely annoyed. He walks off with Moriah] Chat shows are so bloody boring! I shall consider myself entirely in your hands. 

MORIAH: [takes his arm] You won’t regret it.

LAURA: [glaring after them] Floozy! 

EXT. - AN OUTDOOR PHOTO SHOOT -- DAY

Every facet, from the perfectly manicured lawn, to the freshly painted stables, to the sparkling white of a paddock fence, is as primped and staged as a scene from Masterpiece Theatre. In the background a photographer waits for his cue, calmly munching a cheeseburger.

MORIAH: [appalled] You’re eating. There’s no eating on the set at ‘LA Upbeat Magazine’! 

The photographer puts down the burger, makes a pass at a napkin, and begins to adjust the camera 

MORIAH: Oh my God! Are you touching the lens?

Despite the bright ketchup stain on his T-shirt, the photographer musters a look of mortal offense

MORIAH: [rails to the young, harried blonde next to her] My own personal hell and it’s full of amateurs! Where did you find this greasy lump? Taking souvenir photos at a theme park? 

ASSISTANT: [clipboard surgically attached to one wrist] After Christophe called in sick  I had to do the best I could. Everyone in the city with a portfolio and a slipod is on assignment for Fashion Week. 

PHOTOGRAPHER: [tries to shake hands with Moriah but is pointedly rebuffed] The name’s Veenhoff. Two ‘e’s’ two ‘f’s.’ This isn’t my usual gig, but I’m not a bad photographer. 

MORIAH: Well, you’re in luck, Greenhoff. The camera loves Mr. Steele so just point the thing and shoot. When I say and where I say. 

VEENHOFF: You’re the boss. 

PULL BACK TO REVEAL: 

Steele, who is holding the reins of a splendid grey horse. Both horse and rider are outfitted for the polo field, but Steele’s appearance is somewhat less standard. Though wearing cream-colored jodhpurs and boots, he’s shirtless and his face, hair, and bare chest are being spritzed down with water by the make-up crew. The horse startles a bit at the commotion, but Steele calms him with almost miraculous ease. They pose while an endless series of camera shots frame the scene from various angles. 

MORIAH: [on seeing Veenhoff standing off smoking a cigarette.] Did I say we were taking breaks?

VEENHOFF: [beginning to get exasperated] Not that I’m complaining, but we’ve got enough coverage to satisfy Stanley Kubrick. 

MORIAH: [grudgingly] I suppose it will do. [If not, it wouldn’t be for lack of a good subject. Her best bachelor is just as she hoped he would be: sporting, sensual, and classic. And perfectly stunning when wet.] You’ve played your final chukker, Mr. Steele, and emerged victorious. And now you need to cool off. [she blows a kiss at him and fans her face] Won’t we all?  Let’s take five, shall we? [on seeing Laura approach] Miss Holt, I hope you can manage to clear his schedule. I’m going to need Mr. Steele’s undivided attention. Concentration is so key. 

LAURA: [beginning to seethe] He’s all yours. I wouldn’t dream of spoiling his concentration. [in an undertone] I’m sure posing like a pin-up is a tremendous strain. 

STEELE: [warily] That gleam in your eye looks positively homicidal. [muses aloud] I wonder, Miss Holt. What you would call murder on a polo field?

LAURA: With mallets aforethought? 

STEELE: I’ve always admired your wit. From a safe distance.

LAURA: Flatterer.

STEELE: [darts a look at Moriah] The disease is catching, is it? 

LAURA: As a common cold.

STEELE:  [studies his partner] Funny, I always thought the two of you bonded -- over choosing the next set of bachelors. While I was flat on my back in bed, as I recall.

LAURA: Disappointing crop. All of them had air between the ears. She accused me of having impossibly high standards. 

STEELE: [dryly] Imagine that! [with an air of natural superiority] I’ll grant you, the cream had already been skimmed off the top.

LAURA: Don’t worry. The desperate housewives in your fan club will be lapping it up soon. 

MORIAH: [to her assistant] Steele looks spectacular. The special issue will be flying off the stands, even without Christophe working his magic behind the lens. 

ASSISTANT: [looks over at Veenhoff] Our fill-in photographer is pretty rough around the edges, but he appears to know his way around a camera. 

MORIAH: You’d better hope so. Anything less would be a tragic waste. 

ASSISTANT: Of Mr. Steele? 

MORIAH: Quite. And your career, of course. [Moriah is still riveted by the sight of Steele, but now for a different reason. She strides over, shaking her head] Oh, no, we’ll simply have to re-shoot! How disappointing! 

STEELE: [surely she can’t mean him] Well, the pony did shy a bit, but he’s rock steady now. 

MORIAH: [wags a finger] Naughty. Those riding boots aren’t on the call sheet. [sighs down at them] Definitely not regulation.

STEELE: They are on the polo field in Argentina, where it counts. Faglianos’ craftsmen have almost a century of experience. 

MORIAH: [a bright edge to her voice] I’m sure they do but they don’t advertise in our magazine. 

STEELE: [with blithe assurance] If they did you might pick up some new readers. Across the Atlantic, perhaps. Charles and his lovely bride might even take a shufti. 

LAURA: [translating the Britishism] Mr. Steele means ‘a look.’

MORIAH: [more keen on the first half of the sentence] Charles and Di?

STEELE: Faglianos are his favorite, you know. Broke embargo during that dustup in the Falklands to get his hands on a pair. Owes me a favor over that one. 

MORIAH: [instantly charmed at the possibilities] Perhaps we should strive to be a touch more continental. Speaking of which, I think you’ll like our idea for your centerfold. 

STEELE: [arches an eyebrow] Centerfold? 

MORIAH: [with a knowing smile] A little something in black tie. [strolls off

LAURA: Shamus in a centerfold. What would Sam Spade say to that? 

STEELE: Something unprintable, I imagine. 

LAURA: Serves you right.

STEELE: Really, Laura. You take all the fun out of being a sex object. 

LAURA: Have wet blanket, will travel.

STEELE: [brow furrows] Yes, well, you may have to throw it over me if ‘a little something in black tie’ is as skimpy as it sounds. 

LAURA: [grins at him] It’s not easy being easy, Mr. Steele.

EXT. -- THE HUNTINGTON ART GALLERY -- DAY (TO ESTABLISH)

INT. – DRAWING ROOM – THE GALLERY – DAY 

For the photo-shoot the gallery’s Beaux-Arts mansion is doubling as a casino, with a rented roulette wheel and leather-topped poker and blackjack tables in heavy carved oak. In a staged tableau, a willowy blonde surveys a green baize battlefield, festooned with stacks of chips, a men’s Cartier watch, a silk bow-tie, and an immaculate white dress shirt. Steele, holder of the losing hand, is seated across from her, naked to the waist. 

ASSISTANT: If only every man who lost his shirt at the tables looked this good! 

MORIAH: Marvelous idea of mine, getting one of the top designers at Fashion Week to provide his formal wear. 

ASSISTANT: [distinctly remembering suggesting it herself] Your idea? 

MORIAH: Wasn’t it?

ASSISTANT: [patting them both on the back] It was brilliant! 

MORIAH: Every woman who sees the foldout will want to undress him.

ASSISTANT: Shame we have to stop halfway. 

MORIAH: Don’t tempt me. You know what it costs extra to put the magazine in a plain brown wrapper? 

ASSISTANT: [jokes] I could look into it. 

MORIAH: [has an idea] The new publisher has been after us to add more sizzle. If we can’t go all the way, we can push the envelope. 

ASSISTANT: How? Have them both doing it on the table?

MORIAH: What better way to highlight designer clothes than showing them just prior to being pulled off?  It’s time we got our man in a clinch. I hope that high-priced model does her best work on her back. 

ASSISTANT: [sighs] If I could fit into her dress I’d work for free.

EXT. – HUNTINGTON ART GALLERY -- DAY

LAURA’S POV 

Steele is relaxing in a wicker chair in the spacious loggia of the gallery, looking out over the gardens. Still shirtless, he’s changed into casual slacks. 

LAURA: There you are, Mr. Steele.  Did I miss anything?

STEELE: Oh, just another day in the life of a bachelor. Becomes routine after a while. [it was a strange thing to say about having a long, cool blonde in his arms for two hours, but it was true

Steele walks with Laura back through the gallery doors.

INT. -- DRAWING ROOM – THE GALLERY -- DAY

LAURA: [looks on as the crew is moving equipment and pulling up gaffer’s tape] I guess the show’s over.

MORIAH: [holds up a hand] Leave the poker table. The casino people will be here to get it in the morning.

STEELE: They’re striking the set, as they say in the parlance. It’s rather a shame to lose the illusion.

LAURA: An art gallery and a casino all in one, Mr. Steele! How do you keep your acquisitive impulses in check? [as she gazes at his bare torso she wonders the same thing

STEELE: I ask myself that question every day at the office. You’re terribly distracting, you know.

LAURA: [draws a slender finger down his chest] Think how I must feel, working with a centerfold.

STEELE: [with a twinge of embarrassment] Well, you’re a modern girl. I’m sure you’ll adjust.

LAURA: [ducking behind a sculpture she pulls him into her arms] You may not be able to fend me off. [Love is in the air, but so is something else. Laura steps back suspiciously and sniffs] Whose perfume? 

STEELE: [thinking quickly] No idea. The place has been crawling with fashionable people. I was merely in the line of fire. 

LAURA: [sympathetic] I know the feeling. I got doused with ‘Obsession’ by a sales girl in Saks and it made me sneeze for hours.

STEELE:  So that’s where all the smog comes from in LA. 

LAURA: Are you free to go back to the office?

STEELE:  Moriah wants to prep me for the interview. Why don’t we meet for dinner at Justines? We can dive into a seven layer chocolate torte together. 

LAURA: Mmm. Is that what you bachelors say to all of your conquests? 

STEELE: Only the ones with exquisite taste.

LAURA:  There you have me. It’s a date, Mr. Steele.
 

                                                                                                                           FADE OUT

END OF ACT ONE
 
 

ACT TWO

FADE IN:

EXT. – STEELE OFFICES – DAY (TO ESTABLISH)

INT. – LAURA’S OFFICE - DAY 

MILDRED: How’s the boss this morning?  Feeling chipper?

LAURA: [gives her a look] If you mean Mr. Steele – affirmative. Being in the spotlight can energize him for hours. Fred’s taking him to get fitted for a new suit. 

MILDRED: He has been wearing out the red carpet -- photo spreads and interviews for ‘LA Upbeat Magazine,’ ‘LA Confidential’ -- 

LAURA: [closing a file cabinet] I wonder what secrets our mystery man had to confide? 

MILDRED:  Good question. 

LAURA: I guess we’ll have to wait in the supermarket check-out line like everyone else.

MILDRED: When’s ‘LA Upbeat Magazine’ coming out?

LAURA: The shoot was what, six weeks ago? I think it’s due to hit the newsstands soon. 

MILDRED: Have you seen the proofs?

LAURA: Not yet. Maybe Mr. Steele has, but he didn’t show them around. 

MILDRED: He’s never been shy before. 

LAURA: When I see him, I’ll ask. 

MILDRED: Oh, you may have a last-minute client this morning. A Mrs. Stanley. Her secretary called. Said it was an emergency and warned us to be discreet.

LAURA: [intrigued] Pencil her in.

INT. – STEELE’S OFFICE – DAY

[Ensconced safely in the inner sanctum the client removes her dark glasses, scarf, and coat

LAURA: I’m Laura Holt, Mr. Steele’s associate. Have a seat, Mrs. Stanley. [a slow beat, as Laura recognizes her] Though, it isn’t Stanley, is it?  It’s Stanhope. 

CLIENT: [with resignation] I guess you don’t have to be much of a Sherlock to know that.

LAURA: Not really. Your campaign posters kind of give you away. 

MRS. STANHOPE: [a rueful smile] Then, my dear, I hope you’re a Democrat.

LAURA: [shrugs] I’m independent. 

MRS. STANHOPE:  [still a bit on edge] I thought I must be followed, but my driver is very good.  He used to work for Madonna. 

LAURA: Ah. [nods in appreciation]

MRS. STANHOPE:  If it were known that I went to see a private detective … [she trails off

LAURA: What can we do for you, Mrs. Stanhope?

MRS. STANHOPE:  Well, my life to this point has been an open book.  [as if reciting from a well worn script] Married a US Senator, who died before his time. Urged by the leadership to run for his seat, to carry on the legacy. Was successful, in my own right, then fell in love -- with a much younger man. We walked down the aisle together, though the gossips said he was only after my money. [stops]  Is this all terribly familiar? 

LAURA: Most of it.

MRS. STANHOPE:  I’m sure you’ve heard the jokes. The Senator and her boy toy. [vexed] Why is it that male politicians can have trophy wives, all on display, like they came from a shop window -- and their campaigns seem to thrive on it? Is it so wrong for a successful woman to want a trophy husband?  Something decorative to wear on her arm? 

LAURA: [with a pang of recognition] It can have its attractions.

MRS. STANHOPE: Not that Todd isn’t more than that. We do love each other, deeply. But it hasn’t been easy. 

LAURA: Life in a fishbowl never is. [prompting] So now you’re running for re-election. 

MRS. STANHOPE: Yes, and of course they’re using Todd against me. The press -- looking for an angle -- and my rivals -- for anything it takes to win -- throwing as much mud at the wall as they can and hoping it sticks. The other side has a new hired gun, Sadie Burke. 

LAURA: Should I have heard the name? 

MRS. STANHOPE: Called ‘Shady,’ but not to her face.  Specializes in what they euphemistically term ‘opposition research.’ Digging up skeletons. Dirty tricks. So far, nothing’s been fatal. [leans forward] But that could change. [she opens her briefcase and removes a magazine, handing it to Laura]  Todd is on page fifteen.

LAURA: [finds herself staring at a copy of ‘Unzipped’ magazine.  A male wearing only a G-string, is posing on the cover. He’s well oiled and well muscled, with abs that could slice carrots, and buns that would make a Chippendales dancer weep with envy. Coloring slightly, she blinks away the image and flips quickly to the page in question]

MRS. STANHOPE: It’s him. No darkroom tricks. That’s as much as I really know. 

LAURA: Oh, my. [Todd, bare buttocked, is wearing a smile, and leather chaps. She opens the foldout to reveal more: Todd, full-frontal, in an open dressing gown, Hugh Hefner pipe clenched playfully in his teeth, Todd playing a nude set of tennis with a Scandinavian clone of Bjorn Borg

MRS. STANHOPE:  So, you see my predicament. If anyone recognizes my husband in this magazine -- and the opposition gets hold of it -- my campaign is toast. Not to mention our lives will be turned into a circus.

LAURA: [lays the copy back on the desk] Have you asked Todd about the photos?

MRS. STANHOPE: He says they were taken two years ago, before we knew each other. Todd was a tennis pro when I met him, just barely getting by. He told me that there were some lean years, when he did things he regretted. 

LAURA: I see.

MRS. STANHOPE: I’m not judgmental. Todd has a past, I can accept that. But these pictures… I’m not naïve enough to think they won’t harm us.

LAURA: Do you know how they appeared in this magazine?

MRS. STANHOPE: No. The pictures were sold privately, to a collector. Todd says he never signed a release for publication elsewhere, but who knows who might have had access to them? How they’ve surfaced again after two years, I have no idea. 

LAURA: Prosecution would be a matter for the police.

MRS. STANHOPE: [with some irritation] Forgive me for saying it, but the LAPD leaks like a sieve. I need you to find the publishers -- discreetly. Maybe I can discover how widely the magazines have been distributed, buy them up. So far my people have only found a limited number of copies. 

LAURA: [thoughtfully] The publishers are undoubtedly unaware of Todd and your connection to him -- but that may not last. I’ll do my best to keep this under the radar, but any flurry of interest in the photos or the magazine and someone may connect the dots -- find out they’re sitting on a valuable property. 

MRS. STANHOPE: I’m willing to take my chances. Or buy the bastards off, if necessary.

LAURA: [picks up the magazine] There’s not much to go on. [reads from the masthead page] ‘On sale at fine adult bookstores.’ Doesn’t list a staff, or a managing editor. Just a post office box in Lima, Ohio. If you don’t mind my asking, how did you become aware of all this?

MRS. STANHOPE: Quite by accident. One of my staffers is getting married and her girlfriends threw her a – what do you call it – a bachelorette party? They hired a male, ah, exotic dancer and bought a selection of naughty magazines to pass around.  Poor Harriet! My new intern. She’s such a shy little thing, to have to be the one to tell me the news.

LAURA: Can you give me a list of outlets where your people found the copies? 

MRS. STANHOPE: [retrieves a note from her briefcase] Most of them were along Sunset or Hollywood Boulevard, selling smut by the bushel. My operatives aren’t easily shocked, Miss Holt, but they’ve been in politics a long time. [gives Laura a maternal look of concern] Perhaps you should send a man on this particular errand. Not your Mr. Steele, of course, because I’m sure a gentleman of his refinement wouldn’t walk within a mile of such establishments, but -- 

LAURA: [takes the list] Thanks for the warning, but I’m sure I’ll be fine. 

MRS. STANHOPE: [gets up from her chair and puts on her dark glasses, coat, and gloves] Well, you seem like such a nice girl. 

LAURA: [ruefully] That’s what mother says.

Mrs. Stanhope exits 

Laura begins thumbing through the copy of ‘Unzipped’ magazine. Looking for clues, she takes note of the advertisers, interspersed between fugitive flashes of male flesh. Though trying not to look, she can’t help but notice the eclectic nature of the photo spreads, random in style, some arty, some cheesy, some mildly pornographic, as if borrowed from a vast erotic lending library rather than chosen with an editor’s eye. 

MILDRED: [suddenly at Laura’s elbow] ‘Unzipped’ magazine?

LAURA: [startles, nearly jumping out of her skin] It’s evidence, Mildred. Nothing more. I’m on a case. 

MILDRED: No kidding? What could that nice Mrs. Stanley have to do with --

LAURA: You ask too many questions, Mildred. 

MILDRED: I skimmed through a mag like that once. In the gynecologist’s office. [explains] Dr. Fineman. All the patients know he’s gay. Safer that way. You’re sure he’s not getting a thrill out of his work. 

LAURA: He’s getting a thrill out of something. [shaking her head] He actually left it out in the waiting area? 

MILDRED: Nah, in a drawer in the exam room. [off Laura’s look] You know, you get bored sitting around in there! 

LAURA: Apparently. 

MILDRED: [eyes the copy on the desk] Finding any clues? Maybe I could help.

LAURA: [hands it over, knowing Mildred won’t be happy until she gets a peek] Be my guest. I’m making a list of the advertisers. 

MILDRED: Right. [her eyes widen as she raptly turns the pages. Suddenly she gasps] When’s Mr. Steele due back? I’d hate for him to find us, well – 

LAURA: His tailor’s a perfectionist but he’s pretty quick with a tape measure. I wouldn’t linger too long over those clues. [looks at her watch] They need to be in a secure location in about thirty minutes, max. 

MILDRED: Understood. [‘secure location’ was code for a drawer in the agency bathroom that Laura and Mildred kept topped with scary feminine things, the sort that men all hurried past in the drug store aisle. At first Laura had been a little embarrassed, but Bernice, who’d come up with the idea, had compared it to the contents of a woman’s purse -- no man would want to look past the first layer -- and she’d been right. There were times when it was handy, and beyond that, it was the perfect hiding place: for racy novels, touchy-feely self-help books, Atomic Man fanzines, anything she didn’t want Steele, the sneakiest of sneak thieves, to know about.

MILDRED: [offering a running critique] Page five. Ooh, la la! [fans herself, turning more pages] Page six would make Charlotte Knight blush! [squinting a little] Y’know, page seven is a dead ringer for my next door neighbor, Larry Simovitz. [beat] Well, OK, if he went on the diet from hell and waxed his chest. [turning to the centerfold]  Isn’t it funny how you see someone in a magazine or on TV and you think it looks like – [she opens the foldout and goes suddenly, jaw droppingly speechless

LAURA: [prompting] Looks like --

MILDRED: Mr. Steele!! 

LAURA: [panics, glancing around] Where?! [beat] Mildred, what’s gotten into you? I think maybe you should stick to Reader’s Digest.

Mildred jumps up on her toes, wildly semaphoring

LAURA: [hands on hips] I’m really not in the mood for charades.

MILDRED: [pointing frantically down at the centerfold] Miss Holt, either I seriously need new glasses, or it’s him! 

LAURA: Him?! [the personal pronoun, with emphasis, can only refer to one man

MILDRED: [waves the magazine under Laura’s nose] That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you!

Finally getting the picture Laura stares at the foldout as if a hypnotist just waved a charm in front of her face. An utterly naked Steele looks back at her, reclining on a gaming table. The remains of an evening in black tie are piled in a luxurious heap around him: dinner jacket, white dress shirt, bowtie, and other formal clothing items, accessorized with a scattering of chips and playing cards. 

LAURA: [gripping Mildred’s sleeve] Mildred, I’ve seen this all before!

MILDRED: You have?  And I thought you two hadn’t gotten to second base. Then, that’s, you know -- really him? 

LAURA: [catching her meaning and blushing scarlet] How should I know?

MILDRED: But you just said –

LAURA: I meant I’ve seen this setting before. It’s from the photo shoot for ‘LA Upbeat Magazine.’

MILDRED: It is? Maybe I should get a subscription. 

LAURA: Obviously they wouldn’t publish this kind of picture. Or shoot it either, unless - 

MILDRED: Unless what? [swears she can see steam coming out of Laura’s ears

LAURA: Moriah! No wonder she told them to leave the poker table. She was going to have her own private session! 

MILDRED: With Mr. Steele? No I don’t think -- well, even if she was, why would it end up in ‘Unzipped’ magazine? 

LAURA: Someone must have found the photo and sold it. Maybe a random burglar needing some quick cash. Or an employee who had access to the studio or her office. It could be for money, or any number of motives --

MILDRED: I’m glad you’re able to play detective. I’m not so sure I could if I were in your shoes. 

LAURA: What choice do I have?

MILDRED: [tentatively] What if it were all really innocent between the boss and Moriah? I mean, what if the photo is a fake? That is, uh, certain parts of it. [gives the centerfold a quick once over]  Though, if I were Mr. Steele I wouldn’t complain. 

LAURA: Mildred!

MILDRED: Well, most men wouldn’t. Unless the real thing was even –

LAURA: [quickly interrupts] I don’t think this discussion is doing us or the agency any good. The longer we sit here the more copies of this are being sold! 

MILDRED: [with sudden shock] What if a client sees it? Or a reporter from the LA Tribune?

LAURA: [in a rising panic] They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but that’s for Hollywood starlets, not a detective agency! [begins to pace] Ohhh, why did I let him do this to me? It was supposed to be so simple. I do the work, he takes the bows. How did it get so out of hand? 

MILDRED: Yeah, all he used to flash was his pearly whites. 

LAURA: I encouraged the whole city to put a face to the name on that door. His face! Now coming to a centerfold near you! 

MILDRED: [searches for the silver lining] Well, maybe they won’t be looking at his face. [beat] Sorry, Miss Holt. What are you going to do?

LAURA: [a hot afternoon on the mean streets of LA flashes before her eyes] Legwork, Mildred. Legwork. 

INT. – AN ADULT BOOKSTORE AND EMPORIUM – DAY

a mild mannered, bespectacled man in a dark raincoat is being waited on at the register 

MANAGER: [shouting to a stock clerk] Hey, Joey, we got any more of those vibrating nipple clamps? Check for me, will ya? [Laura approaches as the customer steps to the side]  Somethin’ I can do for you, honey?

LAURA: [with a tight smile] Yes, are you the proprietor here?

MANAGER: I run the place, if that’s what you mean. Owner’s in Miami.

LAURA: Yes, um, well -- I’m a grad student at UCLA in Behavioral Science [flashes a fake student ID] doing a broad spectrum analysis of various, ah, adult pictorial media. I just need some basic background information. Could you tell me where you order your magazines from? 

MANAGER: [eyes her suspiciously] Get ‘em from a jobber. Big warehouse outfit. 

LAURA: What about smaller circulation items? 

MANAGER: They’re part of the package. Mix and match. It’s a little different from month to month. 

LAURA: Do you carry copies of ‘Unzipped’ magazine?

MANAGER: It doesn’t ring a bell. There might be a few in the Reading Room.

LAURA: The Reading Room?

MANAGER: It’s where we keep some of the low to mid-list mags. It’s human nature for people to browse --- well, I guess you know that, bein’ a behavioral whatchamacallit major – and we don’t want customers pawing the more primo merchandise. You know, your Playboy, your Hustler, your Penthouse, etcetera, your top of the line gay, bi, and tranny. So there’s a selection of some of the other stuff in the Reading Room. 
LAURA: [not so keen on going in there] I don’t suppose if you do have copies of ‘Unzipped’ you could retrieve them for me? 

MANAGER: Sorry, babe, I gotta guard this register. The regulars in here, they’ll rob you blind in a New York minute.

LAURA: Perhaps one of your stock clerks could –

MANAGER: We only got one and he’s busy. 

LAURA: I’m in a bit of a hurry.

MANAGER: [loud, getting exasperated] Lady, if you want a copy of ‘Unzipped’ magazine you’re gonna have to wait, or find it yourself!

LAURA: [wishing she could sink through the floor as every customer in earshot turns in her direction] Alright, alright. Where is the Reading Room?

MANAGER: [points behind her] Down the aisle, take a left at Toys and Apparel.

Laura starts to walk off

MANAGER: Whoa, whoa, whoa! You gotta pay a cover charge to browse.

LAURA: How much?

MANAGER: Two-fifty. Refundable with purchase.

LAURA: [gets the money from her purse] There you are. [scurries down the aisle and takes a left. She bumps into a woman clad in leather and spike heels, dominatrix style, looking at a display of riding crops

DOMINATRIX : You’re a fast little pony, aren’t you? 

LAURA: [with a nervous smile] Must get busy reading. In the Reading Room. It’s for college. Extra credit. 

DOMINATRIX: I always loved academia. The discipline. Staying after school.

LAURA: Yes, sounds like fun, but the work-study program ties me up in the afternoons. 

DOMINATRIX:  [looks her coolly up and down] Ooh, aren’t they the lucky ones!

The Reading Room clientele for the day is exclusively male and seems rather preoccupied, though Laura can feel several sets of eyes following her. She jumps as a furtive hand pinches her bottom. Some men stop reading and simply stare and others sheepishly put their magazines back on the racks. Though she’s desperately trying to be unobtrusive, her presence does cut a swathe through the traffic, making the titles easier to scan -- though not without inviting the occasional comment. 

CUSTOMER #1: [slapping his forehead] Hey, weren’t you in July’s ‘Latex Ladies Monthly’? In the red body suit?

LAURA: [coughs] No, sorry. I’m allergic. [summons up the courage to ask] Um, you don’t know where they might keep ‘Unzipped’ magazine? 

CUSTOMER #1: [makes a limp-wristed motion] Do I look like that kind of guy?

LAURA: Oh, of course not. I just thought maybe you’d seen it just -- lying around. 

CUSTOMER #1: [points] Check over there in the muscle mags. 

LAURA walks over to the area, trying to see over several male pairs of shoulders. This section is not as densely populated, though the clientele are better dressed. 

CUSTOMER #2:  [glances behind him] Don’t look now, but someone’s crashing the rope line. 

CUSTOMER #3: [turns] You’re not lost are you, sweetie?

LAURA: [with feminist indignation] I have as much right to look as anyone else!

CUSTOMER #3: That’s what I told my last boyfriend. 

LAURA: [peering at the racks] Um, have either of you seen the latest ‘Unzipped’ magazine?

CUSTOMER #3: I would have pegged you for the ‘Playgirl’ type, myself. 

LAURA : Um, I’m rather new at this, really. 

CUSTOMER #3: [winks] I didn’t think women read ‘Playgirl’ anyway.

CUSTOMER #2: Well I hate to say it, but ‘Unzipped’ is mostly crap. Except for the latest issue. The centerfold is to die for!

CUSTOMER #3: I know I’ve seen him before. I think he plays on a soap. 

CUSTOMER #2: Right. And I’m the tooth fairy. 

CUSTOMER #3: He’s still too classy for ‘Unzipped.’ Last time I saw one of those rags was in Cleveland. 
LAURA: If you don’t mind my asking, where did you find it here? 

CUSTOMER #3: [scans the magazine rack and finds one] Et voila! [holds the copy, face-out, like a sommelier showing a bottle of wine]  There’s still six more. 

LAURA: Thanks. [takes it, and reaches over for the whole stack]

CUSTOMER #2: Wow, you’re really buying in bulk! 

LAURA: [trying to act perfectly natural] I think they’ll make wonderful Christmas gifts!

CUSTOMER #3: Stocking stuffers? 

CUSTOMER #2: But it’s only August.

LAURA: I always shop early. Avoid the rush.

Laura beats a quick retreat out of the Reading Room. She walks down the aisle past various medieval-looking devices, each with more chains, studs, and leather than the front row at a heavy metal rock festival. In her hurry, she collides headfirst into a large  sling suspended from the ceiling.  A customer approaches, heading toward the Reading Room. He looks right at home and is wearing an open-necked shirt, a grimy jacket, and high-top sneakers, and has a face that seems familiar – and in this case, it is. 

Laura blinks at him, still seeing stars.

WEASEL: Youch! That’s gotta hurt! You OK?

LAURA: [recovering] I’m fine. Really. 

WEASEL: Sweet break dancing Jesus! It’s Mary Magdalen! Does Steele know you hang out in places like this? [beat]  Scratch that. Does the Pope? 

LAURA: [down her nose at him] I’m on an errand of mercy. 

WEASEL: Saving these souls? [laughs] Good luck with that! 

LAURA: Don’t you have something better to do? Like passing bad twenties at the pool hall, or maybe getting an old junkyard dog to kick?

WEASEL: The big Doberman that guards my summer home?  I call him ‘Muffin.’ He loves me to scratch behind his ears. 

LAURA: So that’s where the fleas come from.

WEASEL: [looks her over] Well at least you’re not at ‘The G Spot’ down the block. Then I’d know you and Steele were really on the outs. It’s strictly girl-on-girl action.

LAURA: [squares her shoulders] I’m here because of a case.

WEASEL: Well they don’t sell that much by the case at this joint. For that you wanna go to ‘Erotica Barn.’

LAURA: [sniffs] I’m not interested in the merchandise.

WEASEL: Then what’s that stack of magazines you got there? 

LAURA: Evidence. And I’ll thank you to keep your paws off it. 

WEASEL: Evidence. That’s a new one on me. 

LAURA: It’s an undercover matter. 

WEASEL: You in the vice squad now? Which one are you, Cagney or Lacey? 

LAURA: [jerking her chin] You have something against women in authority?

WEASEL: [with a shrug] If you’re gonna flash your badge, the Catholic school girl look went out years ago. You should go for the spandex and thigh high boots. 

LAURA: That’s something I never thought I’d see. You, giving fashion advice.

WEASEL: [grins] Live and learn. [gives her a wave] See ya around, Mary Contrary.

                                                                                                                 FADE OUT

END OF ACT TWO
 

ACT THREE

FADE IN:

INT. – STEELE RECEPTION AREA – DAY 

MILDRED looks on with concern as a bedraggled and foot-sore Laura limps painfully through the door. 

LAURA: [perches wearily on Mildred’s desk] The people in this city are disgusting – debauched -- depraved! 

MILDRED: Miss Holt, you look beat!

LAURA: I’ve been to every adult emporium on Hollywood Blvd. I’ve been pinched, propositioned, stared at, slobbered on, and had to climb down a rear fire escape because one shop ended up being raided. I broke a nail, I broke my shoe, my car trunk is filled with porno magazines – and the only consolation is that I can charge the expenses to our client and not the agency –

MILDRED: What’s the story with that client, anyway? 

LAURA: Oh, it’s too depressing to tell! [shivers in disgust] I’m going home to take a shower. Then I’m going to crawl into bed and watch ‘Bambi’ and read ‘Winnie the Pooh’! 

MILDRED: Make sure you soak your feet in some Epsom salts. That always works for sore tootsies. 

LAURA: Ohhh, how I wish Mr. Steele were here! 

MILDRED: You do?

LAURA: So I could punch him right in the face!

MILDRED: You’ll have more strength in the morning.

LAURA: Good point. 

INT. – STEELE’S OFFICE – DAY

Steele is in his chair reading the morning newspaper. Laura comes in with a stack of mail, laying it on the desk. Despite her air of cool professionalism she’s endured a long and tempestuous night. Dedicated Disney-watching hasn’t been enough to keep a host of centerfold Steeles from invading her dreams, each looking as good without their clothes as they once looked in them. Laura slips gratefully into the standard rhythms of a day at the office, trying to keep her thoughts strictly rated G. 

LAURA: [hands him an envelope] I believe this is yours. 

STEELE: [folds the newspaper] Ah, my membership in the American Film Institute. [thumbs through the rest of the mail]  Bills, bills, bills. I believe these are yours. You know, Laura. I think we should hire a publicist. I played in that charity golf tournament a week ago and there hasn’t been a stitch of coverage. 

LAURA: Maybe an oversight.

STEELE: Nature of the beast. The press are probably busy latching on to some scandal or other. 

LAURA: [mentally crossing herself] Perish the thought, Mr. Steele. Um, speaking of publicity, when is ‘LA Upbeat Magazine’ coming out? 

STEELE: Oh, I think another week or so. 

LAURA: [perching on the side of his desk] You’re rather mum on the subject. You haven’t even shown me the proofs. 

STEELE: Well, Laura, you seemed to think the whole thing was such a farce. I didn’t want to bore you. 

LAURA: Somehow I think that’s the least of our worries. Was there much left on the cutting room floor?

STEELE: [shrugs] Well, we did shoot a lot of film. 

LAURA: I’m sure Moriah got you from every angle. 

STEELE: She’s a professional.

LAURA: [with double meaning] Oh, she is that. 

STEELE: [a cool edge to his voice] I find it refreshing. A woman who knows what she wants. 

LAURA: Are you saying I don’t?

STEELE:  If the shoe fits.

LAURA: Well, you’re wrong. [seizes him by the lapels and kisses him, with all the pent up eroticism of a night, despite herself, of dreaming of him naked, and hers and only hers – though everyone desired him. Finally, fiercely, she breaks away, leaving him breathless and stranded. 

STEELE: Laura, wait! [he stops her just before she gets to the door] I’d like to know what’s going on. You blindside me with passion and then you walk away. Not that it hasn’t happened before but I get the distinct impression I’m missing something. 

LAURA: Join the club, Mr. Steele. It’s ironic. You’re always in the glare of the spotlight, but I’m not any closer to knowing you at all. 

STEELE: [with feeling] You want the real story, on the record? There’s nothing between me and Moriah. I flirted with her because it was easy and I wanted to get your attention. Rather dull copy, but that’s all there is. 

LAURA: [finally accepting] Alright. That sounds like a true confession. [she looks up at him, a playful spark returned to her eye] But I think you’ll find it’s impossible for you to be dull, Mr. Steele. Maybe even more than you know. 

STEELE: [with wry confusion] That’s the problem with having a dark and stormy past. One’s never entirely sure what one’s been up to. 

LAURA: [pats his chest] As soon as I find out, I’ll let you know. [exits, Steele staring after her]

INT. – LAURA’S OFFICE - DAY

LAURA: Miss Taylor? It’s Laura Holt. Mr. Steele’s associate. I wonder if I might come by your office and speak with you. 

MORIAH:  I suppose, but we put the bachelor issue to bed weeks ago. It’s being shipped out as we speak. 

LAURA: That’s what I wanted to see you about. It seems your special issue is not quite as exclusive as we hoped. 

MORIAH: What on earth are you talking about?

LAURA: Well, it appears you’ve been scooped. I’ve found a familiar looking photo recently – in a decidedly unauthorized venue.

MORIAH: But that’s not possible! [with sudden pique]  I warned your boss --

LAURA: If there’s one thing I’m absolutely sure of, it’s that Mr. Steele didn’t give his permission. Not for this kind of exposure.

MORIAH: [in exasperation] Will you tell me what’s going on? 

LAURA: I’ll have to show you. In this case, a picture is worth a thousand words. 

MORIAH: [furious] What it’s worth is a big fat lawsuit! I’ll have the damned pirate’s head on a spike! 

INT. – MORIAH’S OFFICE – DAY

The new digs of ‘LA Upbeat Magazine,’ in an expensive high rise in Santa Monica. Moriah’s office is abstract and minimalist, with bare white walls, geometric lamps, and a massive L-shaped desk, all lines and planes. The streamlined effect of the design is spoiled by a work space strewn with production-line photos and artwork, though a small elongated sculpture of an elephant still clings to a precarious perch. Laura reaches out and rescues it from the edge.

MORIAH: Looks like part of the décor, doesn’t it? [beat]  It’s an Ellie. A National Magazine Award. Does that surprise you? 

LAURA: A little.

MORIAH: I wasn’t always writing fluff. [beat] The award opened a few doors, and closed others. A lot of men in this business don’t like a woman who’s better than they are.

LAURA: I’ve come up against that barrier a time or two, myself. 

MORIAH: [briskly] Enough small talk. Let’s see it. I’ve been in a panic ever since you called. 

LAURA: I hope it’s as much of a shock to you as it was to me. Otherwise, you and Mr. Steele have some explaining to do. [pulls out the copy of ‘Unzipped’ from her briefcase and hands it to Moriah] I’ll save you some time. You’ll find him in the centerfold. 

MORIAH: [she takes the magazine, eyes wide, and undoes the foldout, staring in utter amazement] This is outrageous! That’s from the casino we set up at the gallery! And that’s even our photo – from the waist up! When you said exposure, I never imagined you meant this! 

LAURA: It certainly came out of the blue. 

MORIAH: Where did you get it? It’s an obvious fake – besides being outright thievery! 

LAURA: So far, in about ten adult bookstores. 

MORIAH:  [eyes heavenward] Adult bookstores! Dear God, just shoot me! We’re launching the special issue next week!  [beat] It’s a conspiracy, that’s what it is! All my hard work, all my dreams -- 

LAURA: [her own composure slipping] Believe me, Miss Taylor. You haven’t the only stake in this. If this is seen by more than a just a few isolated perverts my detective agency – I mean, Mr. Steele’s – may go crashing down in flames! 

MORIAH: [hyperventilating] This can’t be happening! Not now! Not on the eve of our biggest print run!

LAURA: Do you have any idea who could be behind this? Maybe a rival publication, bent on sabotage -- 

MORIAH: This is a cutthroat business, but I don’t think our competitors would stoop to this. It would be like declaring all out war. 

LAURA: Has there been any suspicious activity? Any break-ins since the photo shoot? 

MORIAH: [shakes her head] No, nothing at all. 

LAURA: Then it would have to be an inside job. Unless Mr. Steele has been leading a serious double life – and we both know that’s not possible -- someone in this tawdry chain of events has been up to a little darkroom magic. 

MORIAH: Darkroom magic? [the words have an extraordinary effect on her, as if she were struck by an invisible bolt of lightning

LAURA: If you could help me to narrow down your staff – 

MORIAH: [a muscle twitches furiously in her jaw] I don’t think that’s going to be necessary. Excuse me for a moment. [dials an extension on her phone

                                                                                                       INTERCUT WITH: 

ASSISTANT in another office

ASSISTANT: Yes, Miss Taylor? 

MORIAH: Get me that smut peddling photographer! I don’t care what rat hole he’s hiding in! 

ASSISTANT: [confused] Wait, what photographer? 

MORIAH:  Don’t play dumb with me. The one you hired off the street! 

ASSISTANT: [makes the connection] You mean, for Mr. Steele and the bachelor issue? 

MORIAH: [spitting like an angry cobra] Yes, the one who shot the centerfold. Get him here. Get him here right now! [yells] Get me Greenhoff!! 

LAURA: [in surprise] You know who it is? 

MORIAH: I have a pretty good idea. [gets up and begins to pace]  I knew he was a criminal the day I laid eyes on him! 

LAURA: The one who did Mr. Steele’s photo shoot?
MORIAH: Yes. We wouldn’t have hired him if we’d had any choice. Our top photographer, Cristophe, came down with the flu and there was simply no one else available. 

LAURA: The guy seemed alright. Maybe a little scruffy. Isn’t calling the man a criminal  a snap judgment?

MORIAH: [confessing] It’s not entirely mine. About a month ago I was interviewed by two FBI agents - dark suits, dark ties, one syllable names, maybe two.  They said Greenhoff was wanted for interstate trafficking in pornographic materials. I told them he was only hired for one job, and I didn’t know where he was. They left, and I didn’t think anymore about it. 

LAURA: Did you tell your publisher?

MORIAH: [with alarm] That we’d hired a pornographer?  I thought: goodbye to him, and good riddance. He’d done what he was told to do while in our employ, and that was all that mattered. 

LAURA: I take he’ll be here soon. 

MORIAH: He’d better be. 

LAURA: [folds her arms and settles back in her chair] Well, let’s hear what he has to say for himself. 

INT. – STEELE RECEPTION AREA -- DAY

The office is empty of clients, so quiet you could hear the proverbial pin drop. The only sound is the rustle of pages and an occasional sigh as PI-in-training Mildred Krebs concentrates on her reading. She studiously skips past the magazine’s centerfold. She’d gotten an inadvertent eyeful at first, but to keep looking made her feel like a peeping tom – the employer / employee relationship must remain sacrosanct -- even if she had once seen Mr. Steele take off his pants in a men’s room in Acapulco. So absorbed is she in the rest of the contents that she doesn’t see Steele stride briskly through the door, or hear him call out a cheerful greeting. 

STEELE: [tapping the desk] Mildred, what are you doing?

MILDRED: [her head snaps up in alarm. She juggles the magazine like a hot potato and quickly tries to hide it in her lap] Mr. Steele! I didn’t hear you come in. You shouldn’t sneak around like that!

STEELE: [quizzically] I used to do that sort of thing for a living – but I could have struck a match and set the curtains on fire and I don’t think you would have noticed. 

MILDRED: [straightens up, eyes front] Sorry, boss. I’ll pay more attention to things from now on. 

STEELE: [not fooled] Mildred, if that magazine in your lap is so riveting you won’t mind sharing it with the rest of us. [holds out his hand for it like a teacher confiscating a note being passed around in class

MILDRED: [mortified] Oh, Mr. Steele, I don’t think you really want to see this! I mean, you couldn’t -- it’s, it’s -- it’s girl stuff, really. It’s kind of embarrassing for a man to --  [Steele’s icy glare brooks no dissent and she hands it over to him with one eye closed, barely daring to see what happens next

STEELE: [deadpan] ‘Unzipped’ magazine. [beat] I don’t think the unclothed male form will be much of a shock. I have seen it before. Just this morning in the shower, for instance.

MILDRED: [thinks the words may be truer than he knows] I guess so.

STEELE: We’ve had this little discussion a number of times, Mildred. The Charlotte Knight novels, the National Enquirer. Is it too much to ask that you present a professional appearance to incoming clients?  To leave the reading material where it belongs? If not in the rubbish bin, at least out of sight!

MILDRED:[protests] But this is professional reading matter, Mr. Steele! It concerns a case. I mean, Miss Holt has a client --

STEELE: [immediately suspicious of all the ‘Unzipped’ men on display] What sort of a client?

MILDRED: [unsure what to say now the cat’s well and truly out of the bag] You’d better ask Miss Holt. Uh, I haven’t been fully briefed. 

STEELE: [shoots her a look] Somehow I doubt that, Mildred. Would you send Miss Holt into my office the moment she arrives?

MILDRED: Yes, boss. Muy pronto.

STEELE: Oh, and unless it’s Laura, I don’t want to be disturbed. 

MILDRED: Got it, chief.

INT. - STEELE’S OFFICE – DAY

STEELE: [musing out loud] What the devil’s going on with the women in this office? They must be hormonal or something. First, Laura carries on like the kissing bandit – not that I fault her enthusiasm -- and now Mildred’s ogling men in G-strings. Must have to do with this mysterious client. [picks up the magazine, then hears a knock] Mildred, I said no interruptions! 

MILDRED: [from outside the door] Chief, it’ll only take a second.

STEELE: Alright, alright. Come in.

MILDRED: [walks in, a stack of paperwork in her hand] I’m sorry, Mr. Steele, but these purchases have to have your authorization. [places the papers in front of him

STEELE: [flips through] File folders, legal pads, paper clips? I’d hardly call this urgent. [scribbles a signature on each purchase order

MILDRED: Well you know what they say. An office is like an army. It can’t run without a supply line. 

STEELE: [dryly] I’ll keep that in mind if we ever want to invade the insurance company next door. 

MILDRED: [gathers up the papers along with her intended target, the ‘Unzipped’ magazine] Now that everything’s ship shape, you won’t even know I’m here. 

STEELE: [snaps his fingers and holds out his palm] Ah, Mildred, the magazine?

MILDRED:  Oh, that! I must have picked it up by accident. [hands it back reluctantly

STEELE: [fixes her with a look] Mildred, what is it you think you’re protecting me from?

MILDRED: [ready to tell him anything but the awful truth] It’s just that, um, it’s kind of  -- a, a private matter and the client’s dealt strictly with Miss Holt. 

STEELE: [eyes her sharply] Have you actually met this ‘confidential’ client of hers?

MILDRED: I’m not exactly sure. 

STEELE: Well, what sort of a fellow is he? Tall, dark, blonde, average? 

MILDRED: Oh, he must be really average or I would have remembered him, wouldn’t I?

STEELE: Your circular logic is impeccable. Not helpful -- but impeccable. 

MILDRED: I’m sure Miss Holt can explain everything. You know what they say in PI school. A good mystery is like an onion. You have to peel it off one layer at a time.

STEELE: [eyeing the magazine] I think this mystery may be way ahead of us. 

They both look up as the phone rings.

MILDRED: [relieved] Maybe it’s Miss Holt!

STEELE: [thinking the same thing] I’ll take that, Mildred. In private, if you please.

MILDRED: I think I’ll get busy on those paper clips. [backs hurriedly out of the room

                                                                                                               INTERCUT WITH

WEASEL on his car phone

WEASEL: Yo, Steele! 

STEELE: Weasel, old chum. [puts down the magazine]  Let me guess. The police only allowed you one phone call and your lawyer’s skipped to the Bahamas. 

WEASEL: He’ll be back when the heat dies down. I got him more ‘slip and fall’ cases than he can handle.

STEELE: At least you’re keeping your fellow bums off the skids. Well, unless there’s a likely hazard nearby. [beat] Nice of you to call but -- given your sins -- wouldn’t dial-a-prayer be more sensible? 

WEASEL: You should ask your better half. Mary Magdalen. You’ll never guess where I saw her yesterday. Checkin’ out the action at the ‘Sin-O-Rama.’ 

STEELE: The movies? 

WEASEL: Steele, Steele, Steele. Your innocence is touching. More like the local peek boutique. 

STEELE: Really, Weasel. Your argot can be quite impenetrable at times. 

WEASEL: That’s a ‘Fine Adult Bookstore and Emporium’ to you. She was practically buying out the place. 

STEELE: An adult bookstore? [beat] Are you sure it was Miss Holt?

WEASEL: Names and faces I sometimes forget. But legs like that? It was her, alright. She had some cover story but that’s standard procedure for the clientele. 

STEELE: [musing] I suppose it would be.

WEASEL: Take it from me. It’s the goody-two-shoes types you have to watch out for. 

STEELE: [wryly] As my mother, Mrs. Steele, oft had a habit of reminding me. 

WEASEL: When they cut loose – [emits a low whistle] they really cut loose. Not that it’s a bad problem to have. I’d strike while the iron is hot, if you know what I mean. 

STEELE: [this case was getting more incendiary by the minute. He’d once accused Laura’s libido of being like a forest fire, raging out of control. At the time it was a false alarm, but perhaps a conflagration was inevitable. She’d certainly been throwing off plenty of sparks. Still, out of habit, he harbored nagging doubts] Given her rather clandestine behavior -- I’m not certain whom the iron is hot for.

WEASEL: Hey, my advice is, you gotta fight fire with fire. 

STEELE: I’d be tempted, but your advice of late has been spectacularly ill-timed. Like the racing tip you gave me on that chestnut at Del Mar. [acerbically] Ready to move up in class, I think you said. 

WEASEL: So I was off by a hair. 

STEELE: Try four lengths. 

WEASEL:  Call it a weakness. When I see a filly going off at a good price –

STEELE: I know. Story of your life, mate. 

WEASEL: In more ways than one. [beat] Tell you what, Steele. I’ll make it up to you.  Just so happens, I’ve got some tasty bits of backstretch gossip --

STEELE: [wincing] Call it ‘informed speculation.’ It’s easier on my nerves.

WEASEL: [grins, knowing he’s hooked] Get out your notebook, Steele. Have you got Sunday’s race card? ‘Cause, as the song goes, I got the horse right here. 

INT. – MORIAH’S OFFICE -- DAY 

ASSISTANT: [knocks and enters] I have Veenhoff waiting in reception. Should I send him in?

MORIAH: It certainly took you long enough. 

ASSISTANT: Veenhoff’s studio was locked up tight. But I called an alternate number he gave us and left a message. I told him that we had a cash bonus for everyone who worked on our special issue. 

MORIAH: Not quite everyone. [beat] Nice work. You can run along now. You’re fired. [in shock, the Assistant quickly leaves the room
LAURA: Isn’t that a little harsh? 

MORIAH: She’s responsible for hiring him in the first place. You don’t get a second chance after something like that. 

VEENHOFF: [sticking his head through the door] Hey, that’s really nice of you, to give me a bonus check –

MORIAH: [coldly] You’re Johnny on the spot, aren’t you, Greenhoff? 

VEENHOFF: [correcting] It’s Veenhoff. With a ‘V’. In the photography business you really have to be protective of the name. It’s kinda your trademark.

MORIAH: [in a voice like cut glass] Is that so? Recognize this? [holds up the centerfold by her fingers

VEENHOFF: Whoa! [beat] Where did that come from? That’s one helluva fake! 

MORIAH: [acidly] Is that your professional opinion? 

VEENHOFF: [scratches his chin] I’d say so. [pleased, he eyes it from another angle] Not a bad composite. That’s pretty nice work.

MORIAH: [goaded beyond endurance] You turn my pictures into a porno peep show and you call it nice work?! [grabs him with both hands and begins choking him]  I’ll grind you into oblivion! I’ll sue you until all you have left to your name is a battered tin cup! 

LAURA: [with an effort, pulls Moriah off] I think you’d better confess, Veenhoff, so the police can take you into protective custody. 

VEENHOFF: [sits down, rubbing his throat] Hey, so I did a little moonlighting on the side. [to Moriah] No one was supposed to know about it. I don’t know how you do know. It was strictly a limited issue deal. I didn’t even think the pics would show up in LA. 

MORIAH: I need a drink. [retrieves a flask from her desk drawer and unscrews it, tossing down a hefty measure of bourbon

VEENHOFF: This magazine guy in Ohio, he buys my pictures, no questions asked. I showed him Steele’s bachelor photos and he said ‘we gotta hook up that face and that torso with this –‘well, you know what I mean. 

MORIAH: Pervert!

LAURA: Disgusting! 

VEENHOFF: [protests] I wouldn’t be doing this if I could sell my serious photos. Have you ever seen my pictures of the Sierras? Like poetry, if I do say so myself. And my sequoias? I do great sequoias. 

LAURA: Alright, Ansel Adams. I have a question for you. How do you contact your partner in crime, the publisher of this -- trash? [holds up the copy of ‘Unzipped’

VEENHOFF: I might have a phone number somewhere. I send my stuff to a special post office box. [beat] But I can’t turn the guy in. I mean, sure, he’s a lowlife bottom feeder, but there’s been times when his cold hard cash has been all that stood between me and a week of eating ketchup sandwiches. 

LAURA: You’re breaking my heart. [beat] You mentioned a post office box. [opens the front of the magazine and shows him an address] Do you mean this one?

VEENHOFF: Nah, it’s a different number. The operation changes locale pretty regularly, every couple months. You would, too, in this business. 

LAURA: How many other pictures in this magazine are yours? 

VEENHOFF: In this one? Just Steele’s.

LAURA: Where do they get the rest of the photos from?

VEENHOFF: From regular sources -- but a lot, from who knows where? You gotta understand, at ground level, this business is like a giant swap meet. [waves a hand casually] Collect ‘em, trade ‘em. Like baseball cards. 

LAURA: [in horror at this slur on the national pastime] Baseball cards?! [thinks of Mrs. Stanhope and begins to get angry] You may not care to realize it but your ‘sideline’ could  hurt a lot of people. And not just Mr. Steele. 

VEENHOFF: I never thought of it that way. I figured, they’re all adults –

LAURA: [glares at him] Does that mean they don’t have any feelings? 

MORIAH: Don’t waste your breath on this scum. When my lawyers get their pound of flesh he’ll wish he was born a eunuch! 

VEENHOFF: [stands up, backing nervously toward the door] Well, it’s been nice knowing you but I uh, gotta go shoot a wedding in West Covina. 

LAURA: [playing her trump card] I hope you don’t run into the FBI. I might just tell them about your travel plans. 

VEENHOFF:  [looks around nervously] Have those guys been here? 
LAURA: [with satisfaction] They have. You’re a wanted man, Mr. Veenhoff.

VEENHOFF: You’re telling me. Today I was in the drive-up at In-N-Out, ordering’ a double double, add pickles, I looked and there they were, getting out of a car behind me. I had to do some demolition derby stuff just to make it out of there. 

everyone looks up as the phone rings 

MORIAH: [picks up] Moriah Taylor. [beat]  It’s for you. [hands the phone to Laura

LAURA: [listens as someone talks excitedly on the other end of the line] Mildred, slow down! The FBI?  [beat] Asking for Mr. Steele? [groans]  I’ll be there as soon as I can!

VEENHOFF: I gotta run, too. Nice knowin’ ya. 

LAURA: [grabs him by the arm] You’re not going anywhere, except back to your studio, We’ve got to get the phone number and P O of your partner in smut peddling. 

VEENHOFF: I can’t go back there! The Feds are on me so tight I can smell brylcreem! I’ve been hiding out at my brother-in-law’s. He let me know you called.

LAURA: Well, at the moment your FBI surveillance team is at Mr. Steele’s office. They’ve probably accused him of being an international porn star by now. [glares at him

VEENHOFF: Well, at least I gave your boss the goods, if you know what I mean.

LAURA: [indignant] Mr. Steele doesn’t need your help in that department! 

VEENHOFF: Then he’s lucky. [beat] I guess you both are. 

LAURA: [blushing] I was speaking hypothetically. 

VEENHOFF:  [thinking of brylcreem and interrogations] That’s a good word. I may have to borrow it. 

LAURA: We don’t have much time. You’re coming with me to your studio to get that information. We’re also getting every scrap of film you’ve ever taken of Mr. Steele. And then you’re going to burn it.

VEENHOFF: That was some of my best work! 

LAURA: Tell it to the FBI. 

VEENHOFF: [wincing] OK, OK, you’ve convinced me! 

                                                                                                                            FADE OUT
 

END OF ACT THREE
 

ACT FOUR

FADE IN:

INT. - STEELE RECEPTION AREA – DAY

Two FBI agents, Colby and Rhodes, are camped in the waiting area. 

MILDRED:  Coffee?

COLBY: Tea.

MILDRED: Cream?

RHODES: Sugar.

MILDRED: Lumps?

RHODES: Two. [taps his fingers on the coffee table impatiently

COLBY: We need to see your boss ASAP. We’ve been tracking a guy named Veenhoff. A photographer. Wanted for interstate trafficking in pornographic materials. 

MILDRED: [feeling the other shoe is just about to drop] What does our agency have to do with this Veenhoff guy? 

RHODES: That’s what we’re here to find out.

MILDRED: Well, you’ll just have to cool your heels and take your lumps -- because Mr. Steele’s not to be disturbed. He’s on the phone with Interpol. Channel D. Pretty secret stuff. 

RHODES: Channel D, huh?  Where’d you get that from? The Man from U.N.C.L.E.? 

MILDRED: [mysteriously] Wouldn’t you like to know? [from the light on her desk phone she can tell Steele’s still chatting on the line. Maybe Interpol could use some betting tips

INT. – STEELE’S OFFICE – DAY

Steele hangs up the phone from Weasel. He begins looking over the prospects in the ‘Unzipped’ magazine with the same diligence he usually reserves for ‘The Racing Form.’ Which of them could be Miss Holt’s mystery date? Brow furrowed with concentration, he makes it through the first eight pages, then begins to get eye strain. He wonders if Mildred could make him a spot of tea… 

INT. - STEELE RECEPTION AREA – DAY

COLBY: [watching as the minutes tick by on his watch] Our time is your time, Krebs. We’re on the tax payer’s dime, here. 

MILDRED: Speaking of taxes, I hope you two have nothing to hide. I used to work for the IRS Fraud Squad. 

RHODES: [deadpan] We don’t scare, Krebs. We don’t blink. Our HQ has been staring down commies since Eisenhower.

MILDRED: [squares her shoulders] Well, I’ll have you know, Mr. Steele is as American as apple pie.

STEELE: [sticking his head out of the office door] Mildred, I’m feeling knackered. Could you make me a cuppa?  There’s some PG Tips in the cupboard. [sees Colby and Rhodes]  Oh, hello, chaps.

Colby and Rhodes pull out their badges. 

COLBY: Steele?

STEELE: Yes? [walks over

COLBY: Colby.

RHODES: Rhodes.

MILDRED: FBI. 

RHODES: [opens a file folder and takes out a copy of ‘Unzipped Magazine.’ He unfurls the centerfold and holds it up in Steele’s direction] Hunk of the Month.

COLBY: Would you like to tell me, Mr. Steele, what you’re doing in a publication of this sort?

Steele stands there staring in complete and utter shock. He turns his head, looking at it from several angles as if he can’t quite believe what he’s seeing 

MILDRED: [jumping in] Well, it’s obvious. He’s on a case. An elaborate sting operation, to catch these sleaze operators with their – [stops, embarrassed

RHODES: Pants down?

MILDRED: Maybe that was a bad choice of words. 

STEELE: [holds up a hand] Mildred, Mildred, stop. [to Colby and Rhodes] Look, I don’t know what’s going on here, but it’s obviously a fake. 

COLBY: [skeptical] Got any way to prove that? 

STEELE: [getting testy] Yes, I do. But Miss Krebs will have to leave the room first. 

MILDRED: [catching his meaning] Oh, Mr. Steele!

INT. – VEENHOFF’S STUDIO – DAY

LAURA: Good lord! It looks like someone ransacked the place!

VEENHOFF: Nah, it’s just like I left it.

LAURA: Didn’t your mother ever teach you to clean up your room? We’ll never find anything in here! 

VEENHOFF: Relax, I got my own filing system. [Unearths a red folder packed with contact sheets, prints, and sleeved negatives]  Bingo. There’s Steele. Right under ‘B’ for Bachelor. 

LAURA: Are you sure that’s everything? Because if you’re holding out on me, I’ll hunt you down like a dog.

VEENHOFF: Hey! Hold the hostility! I’m sure, I’m sure. And I got that phone number and address somewhere. [digs through a mountain of paperwork

LAURA: Well, if the FBI did toss this room they’d need a bulldozer.

VEENHOFF: [finds it on a post-it-note stuck between some papers] I knew it was here somewhere. 

LAURA: As I see it, unless you want to spend your life as a fugitive, you may need to turn over that evidence.

VEENHOFF: To the FBI? You gotta be kidding! 

LAURA: If ‘LA Upbeat Magazine’ can reel you in just by waving a bogus check in front of your nose, you’re not exactly Butch Cassidy when it comes to evading capture. 

VEENHOFF: Well you know what happened to him!

LAURA: Something tells me the FBI is really after something -- or someone -- else. No offense, but why would they waste their energy on a small-time smut photographer? They must be after some piece of a larger puzzle. A piece that only you have.

VEENHOFF:  Be nice if I knew what it was. 

LAURA: Whatever they want, chances are you can cut a deal. I think we should go back to the office, talk to the Feds, and see what’s going on. They’ll go a lot easier on you if you cooperate. 

VEENHOFF: [skeptically] Easy for you to say. You don’t have to stand there and be grilled like a cheese sandwich. [beat] That reminds me. I’m starved. I never got that burger at the drive-up. 

LAURA: I’ll buy you one on the way. 

VEENHOFF: You drive a hard bargain, lady, but I’m still not so sure this is a good idea.

LAURA: Mr. Steele has friends in high places. And in this instance, police involvement and publicity is the last thing he’ll want. I’m sure he’ll put in a good word. [beat] After you fall on your knees to the floor and beg his forgiveness. 

VEENHOFF: [wincing] Wow, this is going to be a tough room. 

INT. – STEELE RECEPTION AREA – DAY

STEELE: Well, gentlemen? I don’t mind proving this picture is a fraud, but if I’m going to have to drop trou, I’d like to do it in privacy. 

RHODES: Let’s just leave it at some questions for now. Do you know the photographer?  A Douglas Veenhoff? 

STEELE: The name doesn’t ring a bell, but I recognize the background in the photo. You see, I did this magazine feature for ‘Bachelor of the Year’ –

COLBY:  I thought you were ‘Hunk of the Month’? 

STEELE: Don’t confuse me. This is getting difficult enough as it is. At this photo shoot –

RHODES: For ‘Bachelor of the Year’ –

STEELE: Right -- we took some photos at a casino. At the Huntington Art Gallery.

COLBY: [looks at his partner] There’s a casino at the Huntington Art Gallery? 

STEELE: Well, not a real casino. A fake one.

RHODES: Seems to be a lot of that going around. [beat] Are you sure your name is really Steele?  I checked at headquarters, and no one’s ever even seen your birth certificate. Except maybe the boys from Langley. 

STEELE: [leans in, confidentially] Well, you know how the chaps are at ‘The Company.’ Like to keep things close to the vest. 

COLBY: Normally, a guy with your kind of high profile -- we’d have files by the linear drawer foot. But there’s almost bupkis. 

STEELE: [laughs nervously] My former colleagues can be a bit – reluctant to share. 

MILDRED: Can we stop playing games? It’s obvious Mr. Steele is the victim here. He has no idea where this Veenhoff is. Absolutely none! 

Laura walks through the door with a shambling Veenhoff in tow.

RHODES: No idea, huh? [to Veenhoff]  We’re taking you in for questioning. Cuff him, Colby.

STEELE:  Hang on. I have some questions of my own. What’s he done to warrant the special interest of the FBI? 

COLBY: We’re not really after Veenhoff. We’re after the publisher. He’s involved in some very unsavory enterprises. This ‘Unzipped’ rag is just the tip of the iceberg.

STEELE: What sort of enterprises?

RHODES: I’m afraid that information is classified. 

VEENHOFF:  Wait a minute!  You know, there’s something in the back of my mind … about this stuff and the FBI. [beat] I can almost picture it. 

As if a neon sign suddenly flashed on over their heads Mildred and Laura look at each other and gasp. 

MILDRED: The all male calendar! 

LAURA: ‘Men of the FBI’! 

VEENHOFF: Yeah, that’s it! The guy showed me the mockup! Not my work, but not bad. Everyone’s doing calendars these days. Fire departments, police, college students. Ever since the Chippendales dancers made it big, it’s been a growth industry. 

LAURA: [flips through the ‘Unzipped’ magazine and finds a full page ad] There it is! ‘The Men of the FBI -- As You’ve Never Seen Them Before.’ ‘Just the Bare Facts, Ma’am!’

STEELE: [dryly] What a memory you have, Miss Holt.

RHODES: [to Veenhoff] Your porno pal put out a cheap, disgusting knock-off. In the authorized calendar the agents wore swimsuits. 

COLBY: [explains] Applications were down and the Director thought it would good for recruitment. 

MILDRED: I’ll say. I’d join up.

STEELE: I thought you lot did undercover work. Putting out a calendar seems rather a risk. 

RHODES: No problem. The men were wearing these. [pulls out a pair of Ray-Bans from his jacket and puts them on, as does Colby

STEELE: [looking dubiously from one to the other] I’m sure that makes all the difference.

VEENHOFF: That’s all they’re wearing, alright. Ray-Bans. Nice job airbrushing out the swim trunks and adding -- [squints] I guess that’s what they mean by the long arm of the law. 

MILDRED: It’s not your father’s FBI.

LAURA: I don’t think Lew Erskine would approve. He’d probably bring them up on charges. 

STEELE: Laura, what are you talking about? 

LAURA: ‘The FBI’ Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., Philip Abbott, Quinn-Martin Productions, 1965 to 1974. 

MILDRED: It’s a TV show, chief. 

LAURA: A classic of its time -- when men were straight as an arrow, solved crimes, found America’s most wanted, and did it all in four acts and an epilogue. 

STEELE: Sounds about as appetizing as shredded wheat.

MILDRED: I think that was one of the sponsors. 

LAURA: No, that was Ford Motor Company. Everyone drove Fords, remember?

MILDRED: Yeah, Lew Erskine would hop into his Ford Mustang convertible, fight crime, and drive home to his brownstone in DC. 

RHODES: Enough about the good old days. OK, Veenhoff, cough up this pal of your’s name and address. And we might not throw you in the federal pen.

VEENHOFF: [looks uncomfortable] I hate to do this, but I guess he hasn’t done me any favors lately. [fishes out the post-it-note and hands it over]  This was good as of a couple weeks. Am I free to go?

COLBY: For now, but if I were you, I’d find another line of work. [he and Rhodes turn to leave

LAURA:  Not so fast. The Remington Steele agency helped you to salvage your reputation, now you can do the same for ours. 

RHODES: Yeah? How?

LAURA: By confiscating and destroying this magazine, wherever you find it -- every store, news stand, and warehouse – at Bureau expense. 

COLBY: We’ll start canvassing the area. [Colby and Rhodes depart, trailing the scent of brylcreem after them

LAURA: [sees Veenhoff trying to sneak out the door] Hold on, buster. You have some groveling to do. 

INT. – LAURA’S OFFICE – DAY

LAURA: [picks up the phone] Mrs. Stanhope. I was just getting ready to wrap up your case.

                                                                                                            INTERCUT WITH: 

MRS. STANHOPE on the phone at her desk in her campaign office

MRS. STANHOPE: [panicked] I don’t think so! Sadie Burke just called from my opponent’s campaign. Someone tipped them off to the magazine and Todd’s pictures. I just knew this would happen! 

LAURA: Calm down, Mrs. Stanhope –

MRS. STANHOPE: Calm down? They’re threatening to identify the photos to the press. They want me to drop out of the race!

LAURA: Believe it or not, Mrs. Stanhope, all of this can easily be resolved. With one phone call, actually.

MRS. STANHOPE: Resolved? It’s too late for that! 

LAURA: Do you have a pen?

MRS. STANHOPE: Yes, why?

LAURA: I’m going to give you a number. 310-555-2895. Ask for agents Colby and Rhodes from the FBI. Say you’re our client and that someone’s asking questions about ‘Unzipped’ magazine. And tell them who. You don’t have go into details. They’ll take it from there. 

MRS. STANHOPE: You sound very sure. I hope you’re right.

LAURA: Trust me. [hangs up

INT. -- STEELE RECEPTION AREA -- DAY

 Laura is straightening the Steele photos on the office wall the next morning. She stands back to look at them. 

STEELE: [tugs his earlobe] You’re not making an extra space for something, are you? 

LAURA: I was tempted. 

STEELE: Still, you are looking pleased with yourself. [beat] That’s another fine mess you’ve gotten us out of, eh? 

LAURA: [teasing] Sometimes I miss the old Remington Steele. The one who was always around and in charge, but unseen. 

STEELE: We could always disappear someplace decadent and become incognito for a while. 

LAURA: Your luck’s holding so far. No calls from the LA Tribune wanting to know when you’re doing a ‘Playgirl’ pictorial. 

STEELE: I think my brilliant career as a centerfold is over. 

LAURA: [smirks] Until ‘LA Upbeat Magazine’ comes out. 

STEELE: Touche. 

LAURA: I think we can convince Moriah not to sue Veenhoff. The publicity would do more harm than good. And the FBI seems to be disposing of the problem nicely. [the intercom buzzes, Laura answers]  What’s that, Mildred? A Miss Fielding? Send her in. She’s Moriah Taylor’s Assistant. 

ASSISTANT: [enters] Miss Holt, Mr. Steele. Sorry to bother you. I won’t stay long. [to Steele] I just wanted to apologize. For what happened with the photographer. [beat] You see, I hired him and I feel responsible –

STEELE: Don’t give it a second thought, Miss Fielding. You couldn’t have known. 

ASSISTANT: That’s kind of you, Mr. Steele, but I should have done a background check or something –

LAURA: Moriah told me you had an emergency and there wasn’t time. [beat]  Did she really fire you over this?

ASSISTANT: Yeah. Gave me an hour to clean out my desk. It sounds funny to say so, but I loved that job. I won’t find another one like it.

STEELE: Perhaps you can find something even better. I know a few people in the media – perhaps more than a few. A word in a well chosen ear could work wonders.

ASSISTANT: You’d do that? For me? [to Laura]  Wow. He really is all they say he is. 

LAURA: [laughs] If he didn’t exist, I’d have to invent him. 

STEELE: If I can help you in any way, Miss Fielding, don’t hesitate to call.

ASSISTANT: [shakes his hand] Thank you, Mr. Steele. [she exits

LAURA: Well, that was nice to see. On both sides. Speaking of apologies, we even squeezed one out of Veenhoff. 

STEELE: He managed to bow and scrape in rather good form. 

LAURA: He offered to take my annual picture for the Stanford Alumni Journal. 

STEELE: Lucky break for you, eh? 

LAURA: [responds to the buzzing on the intercom] Yes, Mildred? [beat] On line one? I’ll take it. [answers] Mrs. Stanhope?
 

                                                                                                              INTERCUT WITH:
MRS. STANHOPE at her campaign office.

MRS. STANHOPE: Miss Holt. I called the FBI just as you instructed and – you’re not going to believe this – just five minutes later I got a call from the opposition and Sadie Burke! She said they’re dropping the whole thing! She even apologized. 

LAURA: Delighted to hear it. 

MRS. STANHOPE: She said anyone who had the whole FBI under their thumb had her grudging respect. They told her if she ever so much as mentioned the magazine to anyone they’d prosecute her under Subsection C Paragraph 2 of 15 of the – oh, I forget the rest. 

LAURA: I’m not surprised, Mrs. Stanhope. Mr. Steele has had a long and distinguished career in government service. I think Uncle Sam is merely returning the favor. 

MRS. STANHOPE: I’ve never met your Mr. Steele but he must be an extraordinary man – as well as a miracle worker. Please convey my gratitude. I don’t know his political persuasion, but he ever wanted to speak at a campaign event, I’d be honored. 

LAURA: Thank you, Mrs. Stanhope. I’ll let him know, but I think he’s had his fill of the spotlight for a while. [hangs up

STEELE: [curious at the exchange] Laura, speaking of clients, who’s the mystery fellow from ‘Unzipped’ magazine? 

LAURA: Did Mildred tell you? 

STEELE: She merely let it slip that there was one. 

LAURA: Not bad looking. But he’s married. For keeps. 

STEELE: [relieved] Probably safer that way. I’m beginning to think bachelorhood is a curse.

LAURA: No more ‘Bachelor of the Year’ honors?

STEELE: Let someone else have a crack at it, eh? I’ll even foot the bill for his tailoring. 

LAURA: The way things are going, you may not need to.

STEELE: [wryly] You’re never going to tire of reminding me, are you?

LAURA: Of course I will, Mr. Steele. In another year or two.

INT. -- STEELE’S APARTMENT – NIGHT

Steele and Laura are reclining in front of the fireplace, tossing copies of ‘Unzipped’ magazine into the fire, one at a time 

LAURA: I decided to save a few from the shredder after all. 

STEELE: To consign to the flames? I always did like a great, roaring fire. [muses] I suppose I was the last to know about the centerfold. I mean, long after you and Mildred. 

LAURA: I kept thinking there was something you weren’t telling me. At first I thought you and Moriah, well  – 

STEELE: [raises an eyebrow] You actually thought there would be photo evidence? 

LAURA: It’s not as far fetched as it sounds. Veenhoff says a lot of couples have it done -- to give each other as gifts. It’s called ‘boudoir photography.’ 

STEELE: Certainly gives a new meaning to kiss and tell. 

LAURA: But once I started to think about it logically, I realized your picture had to be a fake. It was you, but not the real you – [getting flustered] I mean, not that I would really know –

STEELE: [puts a finger to her lips] What’s life without a little mystery? [tosses a magazine into the fire

LAURA: That’s the last of them. 

STEELE: You’re sure?

LAURA: Except for the one steaming up my safety deposit box. [off his look]  A memento. Besides, I never know when I might need to blackmail you into submission.

STEELE: [pulls her into a tumbled embrace. Laura on top of him, they kiss, long and deep, adding fuel to fires of their own] No blackmail required, Miss Holt.
 
 

THE END 


August 2008

[Steele A State Of Mind ]