With her two most trusted friends Murphy and Bernice gone and married, how will Laura keep the Agency running?
Laura looked around with little interest at the fabulous surroundings of this grand hotel. "Why do I let Murphy talk me into these things?" She approached the lounge and found a table away from the entrance but close enough to the bar where she could keep a steady stream of alcohol coming. She was going to need it. After all this was her fifth, nope check that, sixth blind dates Murphy had set her up on in less than 3 months.
Good old Murph. Ever since he moved to Frisco and got married he felt that he needed to fix Laura up with any loser so she too could feel the joys of a relationship. That wasnít fair. Murphy was just looking out for her. Since he left she hadnít really spent too much time on her social activities, instead concentrating on her business. Ever since Murphy left she had had a heck of time juggling everything and lord knows she had about 50 balls in the air right now. Maybe a little diversion would help her get her thoughts in order over the weekend.
A young man approached Laura "would the lady care for something to drink?"
"Yes" Laura replied almost too eagerly. "Anything with alcohol please." She smiled.
"I know just what to have them fix you" he smiled back and headed over to the bar. Laura looked around at all the people. A meat market her old pal Bernice would have called it. The offices open up and the lonely pour themselves into places like these to forget. How she missed Bernice. With her and Murphy leaving and getting married Laura felt more alone than she had ever been. Well almost. She was ready to feel sorry for herself when the waiter returned carrying a simple wine glass. "A simple white wine for an elegant lady." he placed the drink on her table.
Laura smiled and thanked the man. "Iíll just run a tab."
"The lady needent worry. The gentleman at the end of the bar has graciously taken care of it." Laura looked past the waiter to see a very distinguished man raise his glass. Laura returned the gesture.
"I guess I didnít have to wait long," she thought. The last guy Murphy set her up with was 45 minutes late. Seeing Lauraís acceptance, the man at the end of the bar stood up and approached her. Laura downed half her wine.
"Miss Holt?" His accent was stunning. A tad bit unpolished perhaps between an English and slightly rogue Irish one.
"Yes." Wow not too bad Murph. This one definitely had possibilities. "Please have a seat."
"Thank you." as he sat down opposite her, Laura noticed his devastatingly blue eyes. "I was hoping to run into you here."
"Hoping?" Laura thought. "Iím sorry, did you say hoping?"
"Yes. I called your office this afternoon but was unable to reach anyone."
"My apologies, I am between secretaries right now." Shit. Not a client, not now. She finished her drink. She was here for pleasure not business.
"Iím sorry I hate to be rude but if this is about becoming a prospective client, could this wait until business hours Mr.?"
"Pearson. Ben Pearson." He extended his hand Laura took it. "I wasnít looking to be a client really, but it is business related. Forgive my intrusiveness. I can stop by your office." He began to get up.
"Itís ok," Laura realized maybe she was being overly rude. "I am meeting someone here but if you like we can discuss your business a little more." Besides he was cute.
"Ah, using me to kill time." he smiled. "Well I suppose I could be cajoled into spending some more time in your company." And what lovely company it was.
"I didnít mean it like that Mr. Pearson."
"I just, well, there are about a million different things on my mind right now." Not a total lie she thought, she had a lot on her mind lately.
"Could I get you another drink?" He motioned for the waiter not waiting for her response. "Perhaps I can sum up my dilemma quickly. I understand that your boss has been hired to oversee the transportation of some rather valuable gems."
Laura took another sip of her second drink of the evening. "Yes. He has. However Mr. Steele has other pressing commitments and he has entrusted the case to myself."
"I see. The point is Miss Holt is that those gems were stolen sometime ago and I am a representative of the rightful owners. The South African Government." He leveled his gaze. "I am asking you for help on returning them to their rightful owners."
"I really donít think we can help with that. That sounds like a legal matter."
"Well I realize that it is unorthodox but litigation is, uh, tedious right now. Lots of red tape. More so each time they move to a new location. The most important thing is they donít disappear while they are on display here. That would make their recovery much harder."
"Do you think there will be an attempt?" Laura assumed there would be risks taking this job but she didnít really think anyone would actually attempt to steal the gems.
"Almost certainly Miss Holt. I have intelligence that leads me to believe that there will be."
"Does your intelligence also tell you who it might be?"
"Not exactly but following these gems for the past 6 months, I have a good idea on who we need to look for."
"We? Please understand Mr. Pearson"
"OK, please understand, Ben that I have to run this by Mr. Steele first. Of course he will want to verify your credentials." Laura was baiting her hook now. Something about this Ben Pearson was a little off the mark.
"I would be disappointed if he didnít." Just then the waiter approached their table.
"Excuse me, Miss Holt? There is a phone call at the entrance for you."
Ben stood up to get Lauraís chair. "Thank you. If youíll excuse me Iíll only me a minute." Laura continued towards the entrance with the waiter. Ben watched her on the phone. She was definitely not what he had envisioned she would be like from her pictures. He was certain he was going to enjoy doing business with her. Quite certain. Laura was on her way back as he snapped out of his reverie; he realized he had yet to take his eyes off her. Once again he held her chair. "Well it seems my 'meeting' wonít be taking place tonight after all." Laura found her self more relieved than disappointed.
"Their loss, my gain."
"Well" Laura leaned forward hands together on the table. "What say we get down to business?"
It was a good hour later when Laura excused herself again. Ben, always the gentleman, stood and took her chair. "I'll only be a minute." Laura walked towards the ladies room under his watchful eye. Once in the safe confines of the bathroom, Laura sat on the settee to let her head settle. She hadnít realized how much she had to drink until she stood up. She hoped it hadnít showed too much but she was sure she walked a straight line. Perhaps she shouldnít have let Ben get them that magnum of champagne. Once she looked into those blue eyes though she wasnít sure anything she did was rational. Never mind that now, the damage was done. Well not really damage per se, she was enjoying herself. Immensely. Ben was awfully attractive. Throughout their conversation she would let her gaze wander over the room. Many attractive women were eyeing her and Ben. Ben, however, paid attention only to her. Smiling she stood up to look in the mirror, and fixed her make up.
Ben was sitting at the table and noticed two very attractive women at the end of the bar where he had sat an hour earlier. They were both extremely flirtatious. His days of pure physical attraction were over he felt. Sure they were fun but he needed mental as well as physical stimulation and he needed them from the same person. He gave them a wink in return and shifted his gaze back to the direction of the washrooms. He soon saw Laura emerge and head back to the table. She seemed to be walking better at least. Her wobble before was ever so slight but his years of watching people and learning to read their every move let him see what most couldnít. Once again he was the gentleman.
"I hate to press the issue, but would it be possible for me to meet with Mr. Steele sometime soon?"
"Iím afraid Mr. Steele is out of town on business. He isnít expected back soon. Donít think I can handle it?" She smiled a playful smile before sipping a new glass of champagne.
"I must admit I assumed Mr. Steele would be supervising this case even though he wasnít directly involved hands on speaking. You seem quite capable but like I pointed out before this could get a little hairy down the line." He was doing his best to not piss her off.
"I can take care of myself, Ben. I can also protect the gems while they are here." Somehow this tiny argument was being played in a different tone. It was almost seductive.
"Iím sure you can, Laura. I just thought you would have Ďback upí so to speak. Please forgive me if I gave the impression I underestimated you." Never, he thought.
"Not like Iím not used to it. Besides being a female private investigator might give me a hidden hand here. Would you think someone like myself would be entrusted with this detail?"
"Honestly? No. Perhaps you are right. Every one is looking for Mr. Steele and you sneak in with the particulars." Funny, in all his research on the elusive Mr. Steele, he had come across not one photo of the chap.
"Laura, if youíll excuse me I need to visit the uh,"
"Absolutely." Laura kept her eyes on him until he vanished around the opposite corner from she had been moments earlier. She sat back and leisurely had another glass as she contemplated her options.
Ben stood in front of the mirror adjusting his tie. All of a sudden he noticed two men on either side of him. Always one for composure he spoke first. " Need to borrow my comb?" Neither man spoke; instead they grabbed him and shoved him into a stall. It was cramped but they all three fit.
"If it isnít the man who has been following us for sixth months."
"Actually gentlemen, I have been following the gems, you just keep getting in my way."
"Shut up!" The smaller man pushed him down, so now he was in a very humiliating sitting position. "What say we just kill him now?"
"What we want to know Mr.Fabrini, or is it Mr. Quintain this week?"
"I see you gentlemen have no qualms about breaking and entering." What he was referring to were the names on the passports they had found in his room. Plural, not singular. Most people only needed one passport but in Ben's line of work several were a necessity.
" ĎAtís not all weíre gonna break." The less civilized of the two suddenly shoved a switchblade in Pearsonís face.
"Well if you donít answer our questions, I think Iíll let my associate have his way with you."
"What exactly do you want to know?" He knew already but he was stalling. He had been in a hundred situations like this before but for some reason his quick thinking that always saved his hide wasnít as quick anymore.
"Why you get in our way every time we come near the gems?"
"My misfortune?" He had little beads of sweat forming on his brow. Maybe it was time he got out of this business
"Perhaps your undoing. You get us the gems this time and maybe we let you live."
" We join forces. Sounds all right considering the alternative. On one condition."
The knife came closer " You ainít in no position to make conditions."
"My condition gentlemen is that I donít actually, physically steal the gems. Iíll run interference but thatís all." he was setting his plan in motion. Now all they had to do was take the proposition and run with it.
"I think we can work with that. You arenít leaving our sights however. Now get out there and end your date so we can get down to business."
"If you had done your research, you would know that that lady out there is an integral player in this fiasco."
"Who is she?" He was literally dealing with morons.
"She works for Remington Steele Investigations, the agency in charge of protecting the gems while they are here in L.A."
"Sidiní up wití the good guys, eh" The knife lowered.
"Alright. You take the inside track but weíll be watching you. One move we donít like and theyíll never find all the parts to your body."
"Point taken. Now if youíll excuse me I need to get back to the groundwork I have laid." he stood up and eyed them both. They all left the stall. "How can I get in touch with you?"
"Donít worry, weíll keep in touch with you." With that the men left the room. Ben walked back up to the mirror and smiled to himself.
"You havenít lost a step old boy."
To be continued............