"Return To Paradise"
by Kirk Hastings
Based on the Warner Brothers television series "Hawaiian Eye", which ran on the ABC television network from October 7, 1959 to September 10, 1963. During the show's fourth season, Tracy Steele mysteriously disappeared from the series. This story explains his disappearance, and chronicles his return!
The tall, dapper man entered the outer office of Hawaiian Eye Investigations, located next to the main lobby of the Hawaiian Village Hotel. After kissing his hand and patting it on the forehead of the large tiki idol standing just to the left of the door, he headed straight for the door to the inner offices.
"I'm sorry, but you can't go in there!" the secretary called to him from behind her desk.
The tall man stopped, turned, and came over to the girl's desk. He leaned over and looked right into the eyes of the pretty, blonde-haired secretary.
"And just why can't I go in there?" he asked, a light-hearted whimsy in his voice.
For a moment the secretary just stared at him, admiring how attractive he was with his light-colored suit, dark hair and pencil-thin mustache. Then she found her voice again.
"That's the entrance to the private offices of Mr. Lopaka and Mr. MacKenzie," she explained.
"And what about the office of Tracy Steele?" the tall man asked.
The secretary looked at him with a blank look on her face.
"Tracy Steele?" she responded quizzically. "I don't know who that is."
The tall man wrinkled his forehead. "Are you new here?"
"Well, yes," she replied. "The hotel steno pool sent me over here two days ago."
"What's your name?"
"Karen, don't you know who Tracy Steele is?"
The girl smiled nervously. "No, I'm afraid I don't."
The man straightened up, a manufactured look of exasperation crossing his face.
"My dear Karen, Tracy Steele happens to be one of the founding partners of this business!" he explained to her.
"Oh," Karen replied. "I didn't know that."
"Well, you should!" the man told her, a mock seriousness in his voice. After a short pause he added: "Is Mr. Lopaka in?"
"I'd like to see him, please."
"Certainly." She picked up the telephone. "Whom shall I say is calling?"
"Tell him it's Mr. Tracy Steele," the man said, grinning.
Karen's mouth dropped open so far it was in imminent danger of hitting the top of her desk.
In response to Karen's buzz Tom Lopaka came rushing out of the inner office.
"Tracy!" he exclaimed, grabbing Steele by the hand. "It's good to see you! Why didn't you tell me you were on your way back?"
Steele looked a little taken aback by his reception as the two men shook hands. "I'm sorry, Tom, but I didn't have a chance to call," he replied. "It's no big deal."
"No big deal?" Lopaka exclaimed. "You've been gone an entire year! I wasn't sure if you were ever coming back!"
Steele looked at him. This time it was his turn to look quizzical.
"A year? Tom, I've only been gone two weeks."
Lopaka laughed. "Are you kidding?"
Steele didn't laugh in response. "No. Are you?" he said with a perfectly straight face.
Lopaka stared at his partner. "C'mon inside," he said. He guided Steele through the door into the inner office. "No calls," he said over his shoulder to Karen. She nodded.
Once inside the main office area Lopaka motioned for Steele to sit down on the couch.
"Drink?" Lopaka asked.
"No thanks," Steele responded. He pulled a cigarette out of his coat pocket and lit it, as Lopaka pulled over a chair and sat down opposite him.
"Now what's this about your being gone two weeks?" Lopaka asked again.
"That's right," Steele told him between puffs. "I left here two weeks ago to tend to my ailing mother in Ohio. Listen, Tom, I know we're good friends and all, but I didn't think you'd miss me that much if I took a couple weeks off, and think it was a whole year!" he laughed.
This time it was Lopaka who didn't laugh in return.
"Tracy, what's today's date?" Lopaka asked, dead serious.
Steele looked at him. "Let's see—today's Tuesday, so that would make it the 18th."
Steele looked perplexed. "No, it's 1962," he replied. "What is this, a comprehension test? Do you think I was conked over the head or something?"
"So you think it's Tuesday, September 18th, 1962."
Lopaka stood up and paced around the room a bit, before finally turning back toward Steele with a concerned look on his face.
"Tracy, it's September 17th."
Steele shrugged his shoulders. "Okay, so I'm off a day."
"September 17th, 1963."
Steele sat up. "You're not kidding, are you?" he said.
"No, I'm not."
Lopaka walked over to his desk and picked up a newspaper from it. He walked back and handed it to Steele.
It was a copy of the Honolulu Advertiser. Steele stared at the date on it.
Tuesday, September 17th, 1963.
Steele stubbed out his cigarette into the ashtray on the table in front of him and slowly stood up. He continued to stare at the newspaper, dumbstruck.
"I … I don't understand …" he muttered to himself. Slowly he sat back down, still staring at the newspaper. "How could I have lost an entire year?"
"Let's try to figure out what happened," Lopaka said, his detective instincts surfacing. "What's the last thing you remember about your trip to Ohio?"
Steele screwed up his forehead in thought. "I went out to take care of my mother, who was seriously ill," he began, half to himself. "I was there for two weeks. She passed away a few days after I got there, and I took care of all the funeral arrangements. Then I came back here."
"That's right," Lopaka replied, "…as far as it goes. But your mother didn't pass away until about four months after you left. You were the only family member who was available to stay for an extended period of time and coordinate her medical needs, so you ended up being stuck there. Then she finally did pass away, and it turned out that there were a number of legal glitches with her estate, and you remained out there until you could untangle everything. The last we heard from you was about three months ago. You called and said it was going to take a bit longer to get things straightened out."
"But … I don't remember all that!" Steele insisted. "I only remember being there for a couple of weeks!"
He stood up and walked over to the indoor pool, staring down at the rippling water.
"How could I have lost all that time, and not remember any of it?" he said.
Lopaka walked over and stood just behind Steele. He put his hand on Steele's shoulder.
"I don't know, buddy," he assured his partner. "But we'll find out."
Just then the office door suddenly swung open, and Cricket Blake and Phil Barton came in.
"Tom, what time were you going to …" Cricket began. Then she caught sight of Steele.
"Tracy!" she exclaimed, her face lighting up with a smile so bright it could have powered downtown Honolulu for a year. She ran over and threw herself into Steele's arms.
"Oh Tracy, it's so good to see you again! Why didn't you tell us you were coming back?" she squealed, hugging Steele within an inch of his life.
"Whoa, lover!" Steele managed to reply. "I just got here! Careful of the ribs!"
When Cricket finally managed to detach herself from Steele, she realized that Barton was standing just behind her with an odd look on his face.
"Oh, I'm sorry!" Cricket apologized. "You two haven't met each other! Tracy, this is Phil Barton—he's the new Director of Special Events for the hotel. Well, not new exactly—he's been here for almost a year now! He got here right after you left!"
Steele politely extended his hand, and Barton somewhat hesitantly took it.
"Phil, this is Tracy Steele," Cricket went on. "He's the other founding member of Hawaiian Eye I've been telling you about!"
"Nice to meet you, Mr. Steele," Barton said quietly. "I've heard a lot about you."
"All good I hope," Steele replied, smiling. "Although if Cricket is the one that's been filling you in …"
Cricket playfully slapped Steele on the shoulder. "Oh, you know I'd never say anything bad about you, Tracy!" she exclaimed.
Then she grinned too. "Well, maybe never!" she added mischievously.
"I can see you all have things to talk about, so I'll get back to my office," Barton said. He backed up and then headed toward the door.
"I'll talk to you later!" Cricket called to him. She turned back toward Steele, not even noticing how uncomfortable Barton looked as he exited the room.
"So what have you been up to all this time?" she chided Steele. "Why didn't you call these last few months? We've all been worried sick about you!"
Steele looked briefly at Lopaka, then back at Cricket again. "I'm sorry, lover," he told her. "Things just got a little complicated, and I … lost track of the time."
Cricket looked a little disappointed at this brief answer which explained almost nothing—but she realized that it was probably the best she was going to get.
"Well, you're going to catch my show tonight at nine o'clock, I hope!" she asked him.
Steele chucked her under the chin. "I wouldn't miss it for the world, lover!" he said enthusiastically.
"Cricket, Tracy and I have a lot to talk about," Lopaka interjected. "How about if we both see you later?"
"Oh, all right," Cricket replied, crestfallen. She knew that when Tom Lopaka spoke in that serious tone of voice there was no use arguing. She gave Tracy a quick kiss on the cheek and flitted away, circling around the indoor pool and headed toward the bamboo gate that led to the hotel's lobby.
After Cricket was out of the room, Steele asked Lopaka: "Well, where do we start?"
Lopaka looked thoughtful. "Well, first I think we should get you checked out by a doctor," he said.
# # #
It was close to eight thirty that evening when Steele finally returned to the Hawaiian Village Hotel. As he walked along the sidewalk toward the entrance to the Hawaiian Eye offices he caught sight of Kim Quisado, sitting on the hood of his cab waiting for a fare. Kim looked exactly the same as Steele remembered him, with his loud Hawaiian shirt and funny little straw hat.
Just then Kim caught sight of Steele also. He leaped off the car hood onto the ground and ran over to him.
"Mista Steele!" he exclaimed, grinning from ear to ear. "When you get back?"
"Just this afternoon, Kim," Steele replied. "It's good to see you again."
"Me too!" Kim replied. He bent over and put his hand up to the side of his mouth. "You probably been on secret mission all this time?" he whispered.
Steele winked at him, playing along with the joke. "Something like that," he whispered back.
Kim straightened up. "Well, good to have you back!" he continued in his normal voice. "You need anything, you just call Kim!"
"I'll be sure to do that!" Steele replied, giving Kim a friendly slap on the shoulder.
Steele continued over to the entrance to Hawaiian Eye. As he passed what used to be the record store to the right of the Hawaiian Eye entryway, he noticed that it had been converted into someone's office. A metal plate with the words "Phil Barton, Director of Special Events" was affixed to the front door. He remembered that that was the name of the young man Cricket had introduced him to earlier.
Well, at least his short-term memory was working all right.
He shrugged and headed into the Hawaiian Eye front office. Once through the door he spotted Moke the security guard sitting at the secretary's desk. At sight of Steele Moke's eyes widened.
"Mr. Steele!" he exclaimed.
"Hi Moke!" Steele greeted him. "How's it going?"
Moke tried to swallow his surprise. "Everything is just fine here," he managed to get out. "When did you get back?"
"Just this afternoon."
"Are you back to stay?" Moke asked.
"Yes, Moke. I'm back to stay."
Moke smiled. "That's good, sir," he continued. "Things haven't been quite the same around here without you."
"Thanks, Moke. I appreciate that," Steele replied, genuinely touched.
Moke pointed toward the inner office. "Mr. Lopaka and Mr. MacKenzie are inside," he announced.
"Thanks," Steele responded.
Once inside the inner office Steele spotted Tom Lopaka sitting at his desk. Greg MacKenzie was sitting in a chair directly in front of the desk talking to him. When MacKenzie heard Steele approach he turned.
"Tracy!" he said. He stood up and walked over to Steele. "Good to see you again, you old son-of-a-gun!" he told him, pumping his hand. "You're looking good!"
"Good to see you too, Greg," Steele replied. "I'm feeling okay, but frankly I'm beginning to wonder a bit about the state of my mental health."
"Yes, Tom told me about your … uh … memory loss," MacKenzie responded. "Did you see a doctor about it?"
Steele perched on the edge of Lopaka's desk. "Yes. He gave me a clean bill of health. He couldn't find any reason why I wouldn't remember the events of the last year."
MacKenzie lowered himself back into his chair. "Hmmm … that's a strange one," he said. "Where do you intend to go from here?"
Lopaka answered that question. "The first thing I'm doing is putting an inquiry in to Tracy's other family members who were with him during his stay in Ohio," he said. "When I hear from them I intend to find out whether they know about anything unusual or out of the ordinary happening to him while he was there."
"I guess that's as good a place to start as any," Steele replied. "I certainly can't be of much help to you!" he laughed.
"We'll figure it out," Lopaka said confidently. "In the meantime, why don't we head over to the Shell Bar? It's almost time for Cricket to be on."
Greg MacKenzie stood up again. "I'd love to join you guys, but I have some digging to do," he announced.
"Concerning that case Stu Bailey asked you to help him out on?" Lopaka asked.
"Yeah," Mackenzie replied. "I have to head into Honolulu. I'll catch you two later."
The three exchanged goodbyes, and Steele and Lopaka headed over toward the gate to the hotel lobby. They crossed the lobby and walked into the Shell Bar, where they took seats at the counter. They both ordered drinks.
Suddenly the lights dimmed, and a man in a Hawaiian shirt mounted the small stage at one side of the room where a quartet of musicians was sitting.
"If I could have your attention please!" the man announced. "It's time once again for our own singing photographer—please give a warm welcome to Miss Cricket Blake!"
Steele and Lopaka swung around on their seats to face the stage area. A spotlight abruptly appeared to one side of the stage, where Cricket was standing holding a microphone.
The band began to play, and Cricket started to sing in a smooth, silky voice:
Birds do it, bees do it
Even educated fleas do it
Let's do it, let's fall in love!
As she sang, she wandered through the audience, finally coming to a stop right next to where Tracy Steele sat at the bar. He smiled broadly as she continued to sing while looking directly at him:
In Spain the best upper sets do it
Lithuanians and Latts do it
Let's do it, let's fall in love!
Just then Phil Barton came into the bar. He stopped just inside the entrance, watching Cricket sing. By now it was quite obvious to everyone in the bar that she was singing the words directly to Steele:
Some Argentines without means do it
People say in Boston even beans do it
Let's do it, let's fall in love!
After a moment Barton turned and walked out of the bar.
# # #
At the Ala Kai Hotel in downtown Honolulu a middle-aged Chinese man with dark, slicked-back hair and a severe-looking face went up to the front desk and requested a room. He went upstairs in the elevator. Once he was situated in his room on the third floor he took great pains to make sure the door was securely locked. Then he sat down at a small table, where he placed a black briefcase he had brought with him. He took some papers out of the briefcase and started to study them very closely.
The papers were extremely detailed background dossiers on Tracy Steele and Tom Lopaka.
# # #
The next morning Steele came out of his apartment and walked over to the Hawaiian Eye office, where Tom Lopaka was already sitting at his desk.
"I've been able to speak to a number of your family members who were with you in Ohio," he said.
"Did you find out anything useful from them?" Steele responded.
"Not much," Lopaka continued. "A couple of them said that you weren't around much the last week or two you were there. But they don't know where you spent your time. Other than that they don't remember anything else out of the ordinary."
"That's not much to go on," Steele said.
"I know it isn't."
Steele turned and walked over to his own desk. Just as he got there his phone rang. He picked it up.
"Hello. Hawaiian Eye," he said into the receiver.
"Mr. Steele?" came the voice on the other end of the line. Unknown to Steele, it was the Chinese man who had checked into the Ala Kai Hotel the night before.
"Yes," Steele replied.
"Now is the time for all good men to do their duty," came the voice over the phone.
Upon hearing this phrase the expression on Steele's face suddenly became blank. Without replying, he hung the phone up and reached into the top drawer of his desk.
Lopaka noticed Steele's odd response to the phone call. "Is anything wrong?" he called over. He got up from his desk and started walking towards Steele.
Steele pulled out his snub nose pistol from his desk. Quickly checking to see if it was loaded he straightened up and pointed the weapon directly at Lopaka.
Lopaka stopped, standing just to the left of the office couch. Instantly he knew that something was up, and that Steele was, for some unknown reason, suddenly not himself.
"What is it buddy?" he asked in a concerned, soothing voice. "What's wrong?"
Steele didn't answer. Just then Cricket came barging in the office door.
"Tracy, how about if …" she began.
"Stop Cricket! Back up!" Lopaka shouted at her.
Cricket stopped just as Steele swiveled the pistol around to point at her. Realizing that she was just a momentary distraction, Steele turned the gun back at Lopaka. But the brief interruption had given Lopaka just enough time to duck down behind the couch.
Steele fired at the couch once, twice, three times. Cricket screamed.
Fortunately, the couch was thick enough to stop the bullets. Behind the couch Lopaka instinctively pulled his own pistol out of his belt holster. But then he realized he was in an impossible situation – he knew there was no way he would be able to bring himself to shoot his long-time friend and partner.
Cricket stood frozen where she was, horrified by what she was seeing. Steele's face contorted into a look of frustration as he realized that he was now unable to shoot Lopaka. Slowly he began to turn the gun that he held around until it was facing his own chest.
"No!" Cricket screamed. Before Lopaka could do anything to stop her she bolted around the couch and ran towards Steele. Quickly inserting herself between Steele and the gun she put her arms around him and held him tightly, her face pressed against his chest.
Lopaka stood up, pointing his own pistol at Steele. But there was nothing he could do. Even if he could have brought himself to shoot Steele, that was now completely out of the question with Cricket in the way.
"No Tracy!" Cricket sobbed as she held Steele. "No! I won't let you do this! I won't let you kill yourself! You'll have to shoot me first!"
For a moment the scene held. A struggle of titanic proportions was apparently now going on inside Steele's head, as he continued to hold the gun pointed at Cricket's back, but fought mightily to keep himself from pulling the trigger. Large beads of sweat started to form on his forehead, and they dribbled slowly down his face. His gun hand shook.
Lopaka watched anxiously, praying that Steele wouldn't pull the trigger.
Finally, Steele began to gradually lower the pistol. Once it was down at his side Lopaka gingerly stepped forward. Once he was close enough he reached out and took the gun from Steele's limp fingers.
Life finally came ebbing back into Steele's eyes. He smiled wanly at Lopaka, then put his arms around Cricket, who was still sobbing against his chest.
"Don't worry, lover," he whispered quietly to her. "I would never hurt you. Not in a million years."
# # #
Steele straightened up in his hospital bed as Cricket and Tom Lopaka came into his room. Lopaka moved next to Steele's bed, and Cricket came up next to the opposite side.
"How're you feeling, buddy?" Lopaka asked.
A somewhat embarrassed look came over Steele's face as he glanced from Cricket to Lopaka. "Fine," he said. "Just fine. They say I'll be out of here by this afternoon."
"You might like to know that we caught the guy behind all this," Lopaka told him.
"Really?" Steele replied. Lopaka had his full attention now. "Who was it, and what exactly did he do to me?"
"Do you remember a Red Chinese agent we've had contact with before by the name of Mr. Kwong?" Lopaka asked.
"Yes," Steele said. "He was involved with that little affair concerning Dr. Grace Stanley."*
"That's right," Lopaka nodded. "Well, it turns out that Kwong and his government were both still a little sore at us for squelching their plan to kidnap Stanley and take her to Red China to do scientific work for them. Somehow Kwong found out that you were in Ohio taking care of your mother's estate, and he went there a few weeks ago—incognito, of course. A week or two ago he managed to slip you a drug while you were out somewhere having a drink. That drug set you up for them being able to program you sometime later on, when it was convenient, with a powerful hypnotic suggestion to kill me once you got back to Hawaii. The trigger was a particular phrase that Kwong repeated to you over the phone just before you pulled your gun on me. A side effect of the drug and the hypnotic suggestion was that they scrambled your memory so that you ended up forgetting all but the first couple of weeks that you were in Ohio."
"So that's why I thought I was only gone two weeks, when in actuality it's been a whole year," Steele commented.
"Right," Lopaka agreed.
"How did you find Kwong?"
"Simple. We just traced the call you got from him at the office back to the Ala Kai Hotel, where he was staying. He was there under an assumed name, but it didn't take us long to collar him. He got off the hook the last time with a little diplomatic maneuvering by the Chinese government – but I don't think it will be as easy for him to get off again this time."
"Well, thanks a lot, Tom, for taking care of the situation," Steele said. "It goes without saying that I'm really glad I didn't end up hurting you!"
"Then don't say it!" Lopaka laughed.
Steele laughed too. Then he turned to Cricket.
"And as for you, young lady …" he began, a mock stern look on his face.
"I know, I know—I shouldn't have stuck my big nose into the whole affair by barging into your office like I did!" she said sheepishly.
Steele's expression suddenly softened. "Lover, if it hadn't been for you, neither Tom nor I would be here right now," he said. "What you did was a very, very brave thing."
Cricket smiled and started to blush.
"And I won't forget for a very long time that you deliberately risked your own life to save mine," Steele added. He leaned over and gave Cricket a kiss on the cheek. Then he took her chin in his hand and gave her another very long heartfelt kiss, this time directly on the lips.
"Thanks, lover," he said.
By now Cricket was so flustered she was turning all the colors of the rainbow. Both Steele and Lopaka laughed.
# # #
A few days later Greg MacKenzie came into the Hawaiian Eye office and sat down in one of the two chairs in front of Steele's desk. Tom Lopaka was already sitting in the other one.
"What was it you wanted to see us about, Greg?" Steele asked, lighting a cigarette.
MacKenzie squirmed a bit in his chair. "I just finished that assignment for Stu Bailey I was working on," he began.
"We know," Lopaka said.
"Well, it seems that Stu offered me a permanent job working for him in LA," MacKenzie continued.
"What did you tell him?" Steele asked.
"I ... told him yes," MacKenzie replied.
Steele and Lopaka just looked at him, their faces expressionless masks.
MacKenzie squirmed a bit more. "Well, you see, I've been out here for almost three years now, and it's been great!" he went on nervously. "It's like being on vacation very day!"
"But?" Lopaka interjected.
"Well, lately I've been kind of missing the mainland. And my old girlfriend Bonnie from San Francisco even called me the other day, asking me when I'd be coming back …"
"Hmmm," Steele murmured thoughtfully.
Unable to hold back any longer, Steele and Lopaka both burst out laughing. MacKenzie looked at them, by now totally confused.
"We both already knew Stu made you an offer!" Steele told MacKenzie between guffaws. "He ran it by me first, to make sure I didn't have any objections!"
"You've been a great asset to us these past couple years," Lopaka added. "But we both figured the day would come when you would want to get back to your own haunts. So we've kind of been expecting this kind of thing to happen eventually anyway."
"So you're both okay with me leaving?" MacKenzie said, somewhat relieved that his secret was out.
Steele nodded and stood up. "Of course we'll miss you, Greg – but neither one of us would even think of standing in the way of whatever you might want to do."
MacKenzie stood up too. "I really will miss you guys," he said sincerely.
Steele shook hands with him. "Nothing says you can't stop back once in a while, you know!" he said.
"Sure," Lopaka added, standing as well and shaking MacKenzie's hand. "Whenever you need another little vacation, just look us up. We'll be here!"
# # #
As it turned out, another similar scene was also playing itself out just outside the Hawaiian Eye office. Cricket stood on the sidewalk outside her shop watching as a hotel maintenance man worked at removing the metal plaque from Phil Barton's office door.
"Doesn't Phil Barton work here anymore?" she called over to the man.
"Not as of today," the man said over his shoulder. He finished his work, pocketed the plaque, and then walked away.
Cricket strolled over and pushed open the office door. Barton was inside, packing the last of his personal belongings from his desk into a briefcase.
"Hi Cricket," he said.
"What's this about your leaving?" Cricket said indignantly, her hands on her hips.
"Oh yeah," Barton said, trying his best to sound nonchalant. "I've been offered another job at a hotel on the mainland, so I decided to take it. Big raise in pay, you know."
"Oh," Cricket replied, also trying now to act nonchalant. "Of course you couldn't turn down a chance like that."
Barton finished packing and closed his briefcase.
"Well, I guess that's about it," he said.
"You were planning to say goodbye before you left, weren't you?" Cricket asked.
"Of course," Barton replied.
They both stared at each other.
"Now, why are you really leaving?" Cricket finally asked him.
Barton didn't immediately reply.
"It's because of Tracy coming back, isn't it?"
Barton looked down at the floor. "Yes, I suppose it is," he admitted.
Cricket came over to him.
"Phil, you know I'll always care about you," she told him. "But Tracy—Tracy's always been the one for me. And now that he's back again I'm even more sure about it. I can't change that. That's just the way it is."
Phil smiled affectionately at her. "I know," he said, his voice resigned. "I could tell that just by the way you look at him."
There was another moment of silence. Then Cricket asked: "Do you really have to leave?"
Phil nodded. "Yes. It'll be better this way for both of us. Believe me."
Cricket looked sadly at him.
"Will you write?"
Cricket hugged him. After a moment Barton extricated himself, and with a final smile he walked out the door.
Cricket went out onto the sidewalk and watched Barton as he hailed a cab. As it pulled up Barton turned to her and waved. Then he climbed in.
The cab pulled away.
Cricket almost felt like crying, but just then Tracy Steele came striding out of the Hawaiian Eye office. Her heart suddenly lifted again as Steele walked up to her and took her by the hand.
"Ready for our dinner date, lover?" he asked her.
She smiled broadly as Steele called Kim and his cab over to the curb, to whisk them away to their own little piece of paradise.
This story is respectfully dedicated to the enduring memory of Anthony (Fred) Eisley,
January 19, 1925 - January 20, 2003.
*"The Lady's Not For Traveling"; April 6, 1960.