Lock, Stock & Steele

By Lauryn Poynor



Laura, frowning, is shaking out the folds of her quilt, Steele is peering under the bed. Not finding anything of interest, Steele straightens up, brushing specks of dust from his trousers.

STEELE: Laura, do you realize it's been six months to the day since a mystery man appeared in your bedroom? A man desperately searching for something he counted on, something that consumed his every waking moment for the past two years?

LAURA: I beg to differ, Mr. Steele. You were here just last week.

STEELE: [sighs wistfully] Yes, and I'm still counting. Cruelly disappointed, yet again. Actually, I was referring to the blackmailing Mr Cecil Cosgrove.

LAURA: The ex-con from Econocon? Has it been six months, already? What a memory you have Mr Steele.

STEELE: Remington Steele prides himself on his encyclopedic knowledge of past cases, his uncanny ability to recall in an instant any fact large or small -

LAURA: [arms crossed skeptically] Has Remington Steele's uncanny ability found my lost earring yet?

STEELE: All in good time Laura; proximity to your bed has temporarily interfered with my radar. Not to worry. I'll find it.

They both are startled by a sharp rap on the door. It's followed by another more impatient tattoo that quickly escalates to all out pounding. Laura slides back the door to reveal Nestor Bartholomew, downstairs neighbor and full time nemesis. He fixes her with a baleful glare.

LAURA: [surprised, bracing herself for bad news] Mr Bartholomew? How are you?

NESTOR: Like you care. Doorbell busted again?

LAURA: It was working last week.

NESTOR: How would you know? Only a jackhammer could be heard over your stereo.

STEELE: [strolls over, all false cheer and bonhomie] Nestor. [beat] So good to see you getting out more. [moves in for a closer look] Just to be safe, I'd stick with dark glasses. Until you get used to the sunlight. [beat] The view from under your rock must be pretty dim.

NESTOR: [unfazed] Where'd you dig up that joke? From an ancient history museum?

STEELE: Pigmentation is returning to your mole-like exterior as we speak. A touch of colour suits him, doesn't it, Laura?

LAURA: [looks at Nestor's face] You do look a little flushed. [with mild concern] Is something wrong? Um, why don't you sit down? [Laura motions him to a chair. Steele and Laura sit down on the sofa opposite him]

NESTOR: Typical. I come here looking for Sherlock Holmes and I get Marcus Welby.

LAURA: You're looking for Sherlock Holmes?

NESTOR: Is there an echo in here? [with exasperation] I'm looking for a detective. That is what you do isn't it? Look through keyholes? Find clues? Corral suspects?

LAURA: We've been known to.

NESTOR: Yeah. I've seen your picture splashed all over the newspapers. Well, his picture. Must be a slow news year.

STEELE: [with noblesse oblige] One does what one can to bring excitement into the humdrum lives of others.

NESTOR: Spare me. I see where you got that tan. It must get hot under those flashbulbs.

STEELE: How envious you must be. Everywhere you turn, you see my face. Of course, one would hardly expect to see yours. [beat] A photographer could never find your good side. Neither can the rest of us for that matter.

LAURA: [whistles] OK. Time out. You two can go out on the playground and finish this later. [to Steele] We've got keyholes to look through. Suspects to suspect. [turns to Nestor] Don't we?

NESTOR: I've got suspects coming out of the woodwork.

STEELE: Couldn't you try something more original? We've solved that one already.

LAURA: [rolls her eyes] Mr Steele. I think we can rule out a connection with Econocon. [to Nestor] Tell us about your suspects. And just what it is you suspect them of.

NESTOR: My job is no secret to you snooping detective types. I'm a stock analyst. [beat] Stop me if I'm boring you.

STEELE: [yawns ostentatiously] Now that you mention it -

LAURA: [annoyed] Mr Steele -

NESTOR: Doesn't matter. I've seen it all before. That look I get when I go up to someone at a party and -

STEELE: [just a little shocked] You go to parties?

NESTOR: [huffs] I'm sure they're not the kind you're used to. We've never been raided by the LAPD and everyone keeps their clothes on.

STEELE: I'm bored already. Can we stop now?

LAURA: [gives him a look; turns to Nestor] Let's forget the partying for a moment and concentrate on the facts. Why do you want to hire us, Mr Bartholomew?

NESTOR: Someone's been breaking into my apartment. It's happened the last Thursday of each month. Three months running.

LAURA: Did they take anything? Money? Valuables?

NESTOR: Nothing really valuable. But I have a good idea what they're after.

LAURA: Why don't you start at the beginning and maybe we'll all have a good idea.

NESTOR: OK. Every month our firm has a competition with the jerks over at Drexel Burnham. Our experts and their experts pick ten hot stocks from all three markets. Then for phase two, we print out the stock pages, cut them out in strips and paste them on a dart board. The building janitors pick ten stocks by throwing darts at them. At the end of the month we compare our picks with Drexel's and see who had the biggest average investment gain against the dart throwers.

STEELE: [raises an amused eyebrow] So this is what you financial wizards do for fun? Play with darts? I can't say I'm surprised.

NESTOR: [sniffs] It's not a game. It's an empirical test of an economic theory.

LAURA: He's right, Mr Steele. I've heard of this before. The efficient-market theory. First formulated by Burton Malkiel, an economics professor at Princeton. It states that all available information is quickly reflected in stock prices and so all stocks present an equal chance for gain.

NESTOR: [impressed in spite of himself] I see who's the real brains of this outfit. [to Steele] You're just here for the photo op.

LAURA: [blushing slightly at the compliment] Well, I do read 'The Wall Street Journal.' If you take the efficient-market theory to its logical extreme, a portfolio selected by a group of monkeys throwing darts could do as well as one selected by the experts.

STEELE: [gambler's instincts kicking in] In your contest do the dart throwers ever win?

NESTOR: Sure. Sometimes they beat the analysts. Which gives our janitors a big payday.

LAURA: Why so?

NESTOR: They get to split a twenty thousand-dollar pot.

STEELE: [with disbelief] Every month you have a chance at twenty thousand dollars?

NESTOR: Brilliant deduction, Sherlock. And I've had the hot hand, the top stock pick of the bunch for three months in a row. According to the rules I get half the pot. Which makes me persona non grata with the jerks at Drexel. Not to mention the even bigger jerks I work with. Even the janitors. You should see the layers of dust on my desk. And they've stopped putting a liner in my trashcan.

LAURA: It sounds as though you've made some enemies in the past three months.

STEELE: Three months? Laura, don't sell the man short. I'll wager he's been generating animosity since he was in nappies.

NESTOR: In what?

LAURA: Diapers. Mr Steele isn't American.

NESTOR: [to Steele] Communist!

STEELE: Coming from you that's a compliment. I'll bet you're the firm's little ray of sunshine, Nestor.

NESTOR: [aggrieved] They've never liked me. To them I'm just a nobody. A square peg. I'm not a high roller. I don't have a flashy car, a Gucci briefcase, and a semi-permanent tan. I don't dress for success. All I can do is beat them at their own game. And it drives 'em crazy.

LAURA: Crazy enough to break into your apartment? What were they looking for? Information? Something to give them an edge?

NESTOR: The break-ins have happened like clockwork the day before the new monthly stock picks are chosen for the contest. The thief has stolen all of my forecasts, some stock analysis software; even tried to hack into my hard drive -

LAURA: It sounds as though despite their efforts, they haven't had much success, at least contest-wise.

NESTOR: Of course they haven't. It's not just the data. It's how you interpret it that counts. Otherwise, any monkey could do it.

STEELE: Have you been able to surprise this intruder? They've obviously spent a good deal of uninterrupted time in your apartment.

NESTOR: We keep missing each other. I always take that particular day of the month off to go out of town to a writer's workshop.

STEELE: Do your office colleagues know you're out of town?

NESTOR: Yeah. They know. I tell them I'm teaching a seminar on investing. None of them know I'm a writer. [with anger] Except for one. The lousy sneak thief who stole my novel.

LAURA: Stole your novel?

NESTOR: There goes that echo again. I'll spell it out for you. They took all my computer disks -- lock, stock, and barrel. That means every chapter, every line, every syllable of my novel -- every drop of blood, tears, and sweat is in their grubby little hands.

STEELE: [with mock dismay] So the Great American Novel has been purloined. And we thought it was a figment of your imagination. Do you realize what this means? [beat] Publishers round the globe will be rejoicing at the sudden shrinkage in their slush piles.

NESTOR: Go ahead! Laugh. I could wallpaper my loft with rejection notices and have enough left over to blanket Dodger Stadium. I can take rejection. But this theft is -- different. I feel like I've been violated. Some pervert poked through my personal possessions. [glares at Steele] Where were you the night of April 29 th?

STEELE: [smiles sourly at Nestor; then recovers his savoir faire] I was out with a lovely young woman named Eloise. So bright. So beautiful. So eager to please. [glances at Laura, hoping for a reaction; he gets none] She's a stockbroker. Striking brunette. Very stylish. [to Nestor] Perhaps you've met her. Eloise Fairchild?

NESTOR: Who hasn't? Over at Drexel she was voted the girl most likely to.

STEELE: Most likely to? [he motions for Nestor to complete the phrase]

NESTOR: That's it. Just the girl most likely to. [beat] Floozy.

LAURA: [with a smirk] I hear she's a wiz at the "big board."

STEELE: [suddenly eager to change the subject] So you'd like the two of us to catch this thief in the act?

NESTOR: In mid-snatch. But no photo-ops. No flashbulbs. I just want my novel back. They can keep the other stuff. They'll never figure out my system anyway. Idiots!

LAURA: If the thief runs true to form he or she should show up tomorrow. We'll set up for twenty-four hour surveillance. [to Nestor] We'll need keys to your apartment while you attend the workshop.

NESTOR: No dice. I'm staying put. I want to be here when you shake 'em down, cuff 'em, beat a confession out of them whatever it is you do.

STEELE: Really, Nestor. Such tactics are hardly necessary. We'll only hold them until the police arrive.

NESTOR: [contemptuously] I knew you were no Sam Spade.

STEELE: [as light begins to dawn] Miss Holt, I don't mean to throw cold water on our good intentions but have we -- that is, have you -- really grasped the gravity of the situation?

LAURA: [shrugs] It seems like a simple case of robbery. Not exactly the thick of danger.

STEELE: [with mounting alarm] Laura. Consider our situation. We're talking about a twenty-four hour watch. Morning. Noon. And night. Trapped in his apartment with no means of escape while he recites passages from memory from rejected novels or drones on about balance sheets and price / earnings ratios. Lunch with Descoine would be safer.

NESTOR: I'll pay you ten thousand bucks.

STEELE: On second thought we could use a bit of investment advice.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *~



The high powered surveillance operation has begun. Steele is lounging on the sofa, feet on the coffee table, circling picks in the Daily Racing Form; Laura is reading the Wall Street Journal. Nestor walks over, unceremoniously lifts Steele's feet off the table and dusts under them. The apartment is well furnished, but impersonal, suggesting a fanatically clean hotel room.

Nestor furtively peers out of a window.

STEELE: [looks up] Would you stop doing that? We've installed the motion sensors on the fire escape. The moment it's triggered we'll hear the remote control beeping like R2D2.

NESTOR: [sits down in a huff] Don't you think you should test it again?

STEELE: [dryly] I think five times in a row was the charm.

NESTOR: I hate odd numbers.

STEELE: [rooted to the spot] Sorry. I'm not climbing those stairs again in this lifetime.

NESTOR: [a litany] I ask for Eliot Ness and I get Nero Wolfe.

A sudden shrill beeping sound has them all jumping to their feet

NESTOR: Let's nab 'em! [beat; slaps his forehead] [to Steele] On second thought --you nab 'em! What am I paying you for?

STEELE: [picks up the remote - frantically trying to turn off the alarm] Nestor, get a grip! Phase One. We have to catch them in the act. Assume your positions everyone!

Everyone moves off except Laura who has just realized where the sound is coming from. She gasps and rushes to the kitchen.

STEELE: [douses the lights; looks around] Laura! You're not assuming the position. [irritably] What's wrong with this bloody remote?

Suddenly the beeping stops. Laura comes into view holding a kitchen timer.

LAURA:[smiles sheepishly] False alarm. Um, I forgot. I set this -- to remind myself to go back to the loft to feed Nero.

STEELE: [in disbelief] Are you telling me that our best laid plans were just wasted on the clawless wonder?

NESTOR: Maybe I should just hire the Keystone Cops.

LAURA: The poor little thing does have to eat.

STEELE: Don't you think you're being a touch over-solicitous? Ever since you rescued him back from the pound you've been stuffing him like a Christmas goose. He looks like the Hindenburg with fur.

LAURA: He's never liked you, either.

STEELE: Thank God for small favours.

LAURA: [miffed] I'm going back to the loft.

STEELE: [alarmed] But we agreed this was a team effort. All for one, one for all. You're not going to leave me alone with - [beat] I might have to kill him.

NESTOR: I was just going to say the same thing.

LAURA: I'll be back in exactly one hour.

STEELE: An hour? To feed the cat? I know he has a voracious appetite but -

LAURA: I need to call Mildred at the office. We're still working on the security contracts for Hi Tec Electronics.

STEELE: Anything I can do to help?

LAURA: Just make sure our client is alive when I get back. [to Nestor] If you're thinking of killing him - take a number.

STEELE AND NESTOR: [in unison] Spoilsport.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *~



Laura sinks down onto the sofa, relishing a rare moment of peace and quiet. What bliss. She checks her watch. There is ample time to accomplish her mission. She turns on the TV and clicks through the channels. Chewing a fingernail during a commercial for age spot creme, she snaps to attention when an announcer's voice is heard.

ANNOUNCER: 'The Waltons' will not be seen today as we bring you this very special presentation of 'Atomic Man - The Reunion - Attack of the Clones.'

LAURA: [aloud] God, I've waited years for this. They never show the reunion episode any more. [beat] I wonder if I should get one of those Betamax machines.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *~



Nestor is seated at his computer, an expression of grim concentration on his face. He begins to type, hesitantly at first, then picking up speed.

STEELE: [straining at civility] What are you working on? Analysis of the S&P Dartboard 500? Any advice on hitting the bullseye?

NESTOR: Wouldn't you like to know? Everybody wants a piece of me.

STEELE: Fame does have its downside. There's something to be said for mole-like anonymity. [smiles thinly] Miss the view from under your rock?

NESTOR: [the voice of gloom] It really hasn't changed. It's still the same dull, gray, meaningless existence it was three months ago.

STEELE: There, you see? Nothing to worry about. [walks over and looks at the computer screen]

NESTOR: I've gone back to square one. I'm trying to reconstruct my novel.

STEELE: [puzzled] I don't know much about computers but why didn't you make a backup? Save it on your, um, your -

NESTOR: Hard drive?

STEELE: Precisely.

NESTOR: I did. When the thief tried to hack into it most of my files got erased.

STEELE: You sure they weren't working for Simon and Schuster?

NESTOR: [defensively] Great writers have always been misunderstood. [with determination] One of these days I'll have the last laugh. They won't have Nestor Bartholomew to kick around anymore.

STEELE: Spoken like a true artist. Made any progress? [reads aloud from the computer screen]

A gray dawn was breaking. I looked out from my room with a view at the sullen November sky, speckled with clouds the texture of lumpy oatmeal. Fog hung over the sleeping metropolis like damp gauze on a gaping wound, barely covering the rot and corruption beneath...

NESTOR: [cheerfully] What do you you think? I hate to brag, but I know how to turn a phrase.

STEELE: [grimacing] Or a stomach.

NESTOR: Philistine!

STEELE: Amateur!


~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *~



It's quiet. Too quiet. The only light is coming from the pale glow of the television screen and a small candle stuck in an ashtray. Nestor has given up on the novel and is watching the stock ticker on the 10:00 news. Steele is playing solitaire and cheating on the sly, Laura is finishing off a pint of Belgian Chocolate Haagen Dazs.

STEELE: [to Laura] You might have saved some for the rest of us.

LAURA: [licking the spoon] I thought you had a stomach ache.

NESTOR: [to Laura] I'm taking that out of your expenses. Don't touch the Vanilla Fudge. That's my breakfast.

Conversation exhausted, it falls quiet again. A familiar beeping sound cuts through the silence, a bit more insistent than before.

STEELE: False alarm?

LAURA: I don't think so.

They all jump up at once. Laura clicks off the alarm.

STEELE: Positions this time, please. [He puts out the candle and turns off the TV]

Everyone scatters to hide behind furniture. They strain to hear the muffled sound of sneakered footsteps on the fire escape. A moment later the sound of glass breaking and the metallic squeak of the window latch has the team on the alert...

A shadowy figure enters from the window, dressed in a dark jump suit and wearing a stocking mask. They watch as the intruder goes to the computer, turns it on, pulls out a small flashlight and and starts searching through various desk drawers.

Steele, Laura, and Nestor converge on the intruder from all sides; all tumble to the floor in a heap. Laura reaches over and turns on a nearby lamp. In the struggle Steele pulls off the stocking mask.

STEELE: Eloise!

ELOISE: Remington!

STEELE AND ELOISE: [in unison] What are you doing here?

NESTOR: I think we know the answer to that. Cough it up, sweetheart.

ELOISE: Cough what up?

NESTOR: My novel, you floozy.

ELOISE: [struggling in Steele's grasp] Are you going to let him talk to me that way? [to Nestor] I haven't the foggiest idea what you're talking about.

LAURA: [smugly] No gloves, Eloise? Not a smart move. We've dusted for fingerprints. You've been here before, haven't you?

ELOISE: [realizing the game is up] I had to do something. To save my career. I was on a fast track to nowhere, willing to risk anything. [pleading] You don't know what it's like at Drexel. It's a shark tank. Survival of the fittest.

NESTOR: My heart bleeds.

ELOISE: [to Steele] You're not going to let him press charges are you? [seductively] After all we've meant to each other.

NESTOR: You're disgusting.

ELOISE: You're sick. [a twist of the knife] That novel of yours. It's garbage. I've saved the publishers the trouble of rejecting it. It's been recycled. It was my civic duty.

NESTOR: You floozy! [goes for the throat]

STEELE: [trying to hold him back] Icy calm, Nestor, icy calm!


~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *~



Steele and Laura are playing darts. It's Steele's turn. He misses by a mile as Laura leans in and nuzzles his earlobe. They hear a rap at the door. Followed by a pounding. They both go to answer it.

LAURA: Nestor! Long time no see. [she winks at him]

NESTOR: [stonefaced] Will ten thousand dollars get the both of you out of my life? [he pulls out an envelope from his jacket]

STEELE: It's a deal. We never want to see you again. [He takes the envelope and thumbs through the wad of bills inside]

LAURA: I'm sorry we weren't able to get your novel back.

STEELE: That makes one of us.

LAURA: I don't think Eloise will be climbing through windows for a while. Making a run for it on that fire escape and breaking her ankle. Crime doesn't pay, does it?

STEELE: Sweet, willing Eloise. Who'd have ever guessed it, eh?

LAURA: [dryly] Not you, obviously.

STEELE: Nestor, my good man. What do you say to one last fling? Cast off that dull, gray, wet blanket and live a little. [beat] Let's go to the track. I'll show you how my system works.

NESTOR: The ponies? Thanks but no thanks. My old man was a horseplayer. He died broke.

STEELE: You're such a pessimist. It's a lot more fun than the Dartboard 500. More profitable, too.

NESTOR: [snorts] More profitable? Don't make me laugh. Every dollar that goes through the betting window they take out twenty percent. The racetrack, the purse payouts, the state -- all get a share. You're beat before you start. Then there's parking, admission, food, drinks, the Racing Form -

STEELE: Laura, can I kill him now?

LAURA: [shrugs] Somehow I don't think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.



April 2002


[ Steele A State Of Mind ]