After the feisty old lady disappears into the night, the next thing we see is …
… a feisty young lady: Laura, looking crisply professional as always. She is speaking to someone in Steele’s office. “From the sound of it, Miss Kirk, she hasn’t been gone very long.”
Laura rounds the desk, where Mr. Steele is NOT sitting, and faces her presumed client (and Murphy, looking casual-Fridays as always). Laura wants to know if Miss Kirk has contacted the police. I want to know why Miss Kirk is dressed like Mary Poppins.
Miss Kirk explains she was hoping to avoid drawing attention to her mother’s “medical problem.” That problem being tequila. And besides, that fact that “she’s been virtual shut-in for the past 30 years has given rise to – frequent lapses in memory, bouts of senility, and even paranoid delusions. For the past two months, my mother’s been convinced that someone’s trying to kill her.”
Murphy gives her a look.
I believe it’s THIS look.
Murph wants to know if dear, old mom’s fears are warranted.
“No!” she insists. “Not if we’re talking reality.”
Needing clarification, Laura tries to put it delicately: “So it’s safe to say we’re talking about-”
“A four-star loon.” And yet you’re the one wearing that hat, Miss Kirk. Who’s the loon NOW?
Meanwhile, in the lobby …
Bernice is idly thumbing through her Rolodex. Perhaps she is checking her contacts for a more rewarding job (I suspect Janet DeMay was doing much the same by this point in the season.)
In waltzes a happy-go-lucky Mr. Steele. He looks well turned out (and really thin; Pierce’s second wife will feed him better). Bernice hurries to intercept him.
“Look at you!” she gushes. “This is new, isn’t it? What a fabulous color for you!”
Um, Bernice? You haven’t said a civil word to the man since he started working here. You think he’s going to buy this?
Nevertheless, Steele’s instantly erect … newspaper suggests he’s flattered. But not fooled.
“Let me guess, Miss Wolf. Laura is in my interviewing a prospective client and you’ve been posted here to prevent me from joining them.”
Bernice concedes she laid it on a bit thick. “With a trowel,” he agrees.”
“Look,” she cajoles. “Just this once, couldn’t you let me win?” Clearly still turned on by this repartee, Mr. Steele responds, “What? And ruin our perfect record?” Is that a trowel in your pocket, Mr. Steele, or are you just yada yada yada.
Steele leaves Bernice with a puckish smirk and playful tap with his newspaper in the vicinity of her backside. Bernice mentally prepares her sexual harassment filing.
Back in the office, Mr. Steele arrives just in time to hear Miss Poppins say, “I was hoping your agency could handle this with the right sort of discretion.”
Good news! Discretion is Mr. Steele’s middle name!
Steele pronounces himself pleased that his minions went ahead and started without him. But now he’s here, and ready to take charge.
Laura says she thought he was still busy … “At the mayor’s office?” he says. “What’s the point? My views on crime are public knowledge.” (I’m guessing his view is that crime is bad – if he’s not the one committing it.) Steele prefers to be here, where the action is. Where he can really make a difference. “Eh, Mr. Michaels?”
“You certainly do make a difference, sir,” Murphy retorts, using that razor-keen wit for which he is famed.
“Now, how can we be of service?” Steele asks. Ordinarily, any woman would be happy to be service by Mr. Steele. But Miss Kirk seems unaffected by his charm. On the other hand, Laura seems VERY affected.
The new client is identified as Jennifer Kirk.
“Seems her mother, Veronica, is missing,” Laura grudgingly explains.
This piques Mr. Steele’s interest. “Kirk?”
Which Kirk is Steele a fan of?
As Laura tries to explain the particulars of the case, Mr. Steele is agog. “Veronica? Veronica Kirk?”
Miss Poppins isn’t impressed. “I’m afraid so,” she says.
Laura, who apparently wasn’t paying attention to all those hundreds of times Mr. Steele has demonstrated his encyclopedic knowledge of film, inquires, “You knew Veronica Kirk was an actress?”
Well played, Mr. Steele.
“Oh, it’s true she hasn’t made a picture in- must be nearly three decades-” he admits.
“Could be four, unless Phil Haver has his way.”
“Who’s Phil Haver?” Steele asks excitedly. (Perhaps Mr. Brosnan, already tired of this gig, is looking for new representation.)
Sorry, Pierce. “He’s a producer urging Veronica to make a comeback.” Thanks for the exposition, Murph!
Steele thinks that’s a WONDERFUL idea!
Miss Poppins doesn’t. “Phil Haver is a parasite who bleeds pathetic old women of their trust funds.”
Laura decides she’d better remove Mr. Steele from the premises. “Might I have a word in private with you, Mr. Steele?”
Outside the office, Laura gives Steele the stink eye.
Mr. Steele intuits that he might have hit a nerve.
“Several,” Laura confirms.
Steele is only a little sorry. “The thought of being a mere relative away from Veronica Kirk, a veritable legend of the silver screen-”
“A deranged and drunken woman.”
Yikes. Nasty much, Laura?
Mr. Steele, apparently intimidated by Laura’s contempt, says maybe calling Veronica Kirk a legend is a bit of an overstatement. Nevertheless, “The fact remains- Veronica Kirk WAS the queen of the Bs.”
I believe you’re mistaken, Mr. Steele. According to Wikipedia, this woman is known as the “Queen of the B Movie”
Laura, who apparently has never seen a movie, and despite living her whole live in the motion picture capital of the world doesn’t know what a B movie is, responds, “Buzz Buzz?”
Steele has to explain: “B movies. Second feature in a double bill. They were made on a shoestring, no budget, no stars, just good acting, great scenarios, and plethora of inventiveness.”
Laura has no patience for what will undoubtedly prove to be knowledge essential to solving the case. “If you can contain your thrill-”
Mr. Steele is affronted to hear his adulation trivialized. “Thrill? Laura, Veronica Kirk was one of the GREATEST femme fatales of the cinema.”
“She died in more films than any other actress around- and better, too.”
“Better than Davis, better than Crawford, and for my money, better than Garbo.”
Garbo, dying. (In Camille. 1936. MGM)
Laura worries that if Veronica isn’t found soon, she might outdo herself in the death scene department.
“You’re right. Time to reminisce once we are sure that she’s safe.”
“What makes you think that the mayor can spare you?” Laura snarks.
“Laura. You can’t be so cruel as to come between a man of my cinematic expertise and a star like Veronica Kirk?”
Pretty sure she can.