A/N: I know, I've taken forever! The second part of this story is taking longer than I hoped, partly due to the distractions of my stepsons being out of school for the summer, and partly on account of a slight case of writer's block. But I'm working on it…and in the meantime, I'll try to get a chapter a day posted on this one, which is a retelling of another episode that will set up the second part of the story. By September I hope to have things back to normal. I hope you've all had a great summer!
§ § § - June 21, 2007
About to head home for the night, Leslie paused in front of the steps up to the foyer when she heard Roarke chuckle, and turned in time to see him shake his head once or twice. "Something funny?" she asked.
He met her gaze, noted Christian's curious stare, and gestured them both back into the room. "This will interest you, Leslie. Do you remember when Miss Helen Trask visited the island to help with a fantasy?"
Leslie had to think back for a long moment. "I'm not sure," she said at length. "Was she someone I'm supposed to know?"
"Well, she wasn't famous—at least not under that name. Perhaps the phrase 'a thousand ships' will revive your memory."
Which it did, to his amusement. Leslie stared at him. "Oh…okay, what about her?"
"She'll be returning to us tomorrow," Roarke said.
Leslie settled back and folded her arms over her chest, regarding him with a half-smirk. "Didn't she have this gargantuan crush on you or something?"
By now Christian was perplexed beyond all politeness. "Would it be possible that you two might enlighten me as to what you're talking about, or is it classified information?"
Leslie and Roarke grinned at each other, and she remarked, "Well, seeing as we've recounted I don't know how many past fantasies in front of you and quite a few relatives and friends, I see no reason to keep this one a secret either."
"Quite," Roarke said. "The triplets should be just fine under Mariki's continued surveillance in the kitchen, so if you think you can spare ten or fifteen minutes, by all means sit down and make yourselves comfortable."
Christian shrugged, glancing into the foyer in the general direction of the kitchen before accompanying Leslie over to the tea table, where Roarke joined them, date book in hand and reminiscent smile on his face. Having settled himself, Christian leaned forward, resting his forearms on his thighs. "All right, before you start, what prompts the backstory?"
"A guest who will be arriving on tomorrow morning's plane for a fantasy very similar to one of the ones I am about to relate to you, with Leslie's help," said Roarke. "Don't worry, Christian, you'll soon understand how it all fits together."
§ § § - May 23, 1981
"Smiles, everyone, smiles!" Roarke urged as always, and Leslie watched him motion the band into action before buttoning his suit jacket, cursorily checking Tattoo's jacket, as had been a longtime habit of his. They all turned their attention to the seaplane's hatch, where a handsome-looking young family stepped out: mother, father, and little boy around five or six years old, Leslie estimated. The father's dark curls and mother's dark waves had somehow missed the boy, whose straight black hair gleamed in the sun; they looked very tanned, as though just coming off one tropical vacation onto another.
"Boss, are those people here for a fantasy?" Tattoo asked, sounding dubious.
"Indeed they are, Tattoo," Roarke replied.
"Why do you ask?" Leslie wanted to know.
"They look like they cannot afford it," Tattoo said and peered up at his boss. "What kind of deal did you make?"
Roarke gave him a look that brought out an appreciative chortle from Leslie. "First I will tell you their story, and then you will tell me about the deal I made, all right?" he said a bit sharply.
Undaunted in the slightest, Tattoo shrugged. "Don't be sore, boss. Sometimes you're a sucker for a sad story."
"Am I?" Roarke murmured, smiling knowingly. "We shall see." He redirected their gazes to the approaching guests by continuing: "Señor Manuel Lopez is a farmer; he owns a small piece of very arid land in Durango, Mexico. The lady is Consuelo, his devoted wife; the boy is Paco, their son. He is almost eight."
Surprised, Leslie stared questioningly at him. "I thought he was maybe six at most!"
"Last year he was on his deathbed from an infection," Roarke explained, and she nodded understanding. "He talked of nothing but a birthday party. Manuel and Consuelo promised God that if Paco lived, they would give him a birthday party he would never forget. Do you have something to say now, Tattoo?" This he directed at his assistant, who was now all smiles and generosity.
"Yes," Tattoo said eagerly. "Give them the full treatment. First class!"
But Roarke looked concerned. "Unfortunately for the Lopez family, they are about to be treated…but in a way that definitely may not be first class." Tattoo and Leslie looked at each other, but mystified as they were, they'd both been around Roarke long enough not to waste any time asking questions he wouldn't yet answer.
The second guest had just stepped out of the plane when they refocused: a very pretty blonde woman in her mid-twenties or so, wearing a peach-colored skirt and long-sleeved jacket over a plain tan blouse with a little-girl Peter Pan collar. Leslie could remember wearing such collars—a good ten years ago. "Poor thing," she mumbled.
Before Roarke could comment, Tattoo exclaimed in admiration, "Boss…I like her! Who is she?" As he spoke, the woman began to advance down the ramp, looking around her with a strangely unsmiling expression.
"That is Nancy Harvester of Toledo, Ohio. For years she has been the nurse to her aged uncle, who was an invalid. And, if she knows anything at all about life, it I only from the pages of the many books that have been her only companions."
"Hmm…naïve," Leslie mused. "So she never got out of the house…that's probably why she doesn't realize she's too old for that cute little blouse she's wearing. I used to wear stuff like that to school when I was in first grade."
Roarke released a huff of amusement, while Tattoo prodded the conversation along with the standard question. "What's her fantasy, boss?"
"Oh, the lady has no fantasy," Roarke said, attracting bewildered looks from his ward and his assistant. "She is here for the reading of her uncle's will, of which I am the executor."
"You mean…" Tattoo began, then let the sentence hang.
"Exactly, Tattoo. Among the many assets she has inherited, Miss Nancy Harvester has also been willed a fantasy." He gave them a significant look. "A fantasy she knows nothing about."
"That's weird," Tattoo commented. "We never had that before."
"Cool," said Leslie, grinning. "Something new. I wouldn't mind getting an inheritance like that myself."
Roarke grinned back at her, then accepted his champagne flute and raised it in toast, while Leslie mentally recited the so-familiar words along with him. "My dear guests! I am Mr. Roarke, your host. Welcome to Fantasy Island!"
Nancy Harvester raised her glass in return, her face a mask still uncracked by a smile for some reason. Manuel and Consuelo Lopez turned to each other with hopeful, optimistic smiles and clinked their glasses together, while Paco drank deeply from his own tall glass of milk. Leslie smiled broadly; the birthday party should be fun, despite the fact that Paco was only half her age, and she was looking forward to finding out about Nancy Harvester's unexpected inheritance.
‡ ‡ ‡
From the plane dock, the Lopezes were taken directly to the main house, for Roarke and Leslie were driving them straight to their weekend accommodations. To Leslie's amazement, this turned out to be a large, Spanish-style home of two stories, whitewash gleaming in the tropical sun; it was located some four-fifths of the way across the island, in a small, exclusive neighborhood within a mile or two of the island high school. Señor Lopez stared at the house as they all climbed out of the car. "Whoa…what do they call this place, Mr. Roarke?" he asked, impressed.
"Manuel, stop questioning Mr. Roarke," Consuelo scolded with a smile. "He's tired from the drive."
"I…I'm just asking for a name," Manuel said. "I want to tell my friends where I was."
A sweet female voice arrested their attention then and everyone turned to see whom it belonged to. "Mr. Roarke, I was just going for a ride!" She brushed off the valet who had followed her down a flight of steps whose risers were decorated with blue-and-white checkerboard tiles.
Roarke smiled apologetically, removing suitcases from the back. "Señora, we drove as fast as we could. May I present your guests, Mr. and Mrs.—"
But the lady clearly already knew them. "Manuel, Consuelo." Leslie noticed Manuel's expression rapidly freezing over, his initial surprise giving way to what seemed like disgust. The señora focused on the grinning little boy who stood with his mother's hands on his shoulders, and murmured in delight, "Paquito!" Roarke chuckled softly, while Leslie grinned at his cheerful expression.
Then Manuel looked at Roarke and demanded, "This is her place?"
"José, do you mind taking the piñata into the house?" Roarke requested of the valet.
"Certainly, Mr. Roarke," he replied obligingly and approached the car. "Hello there, Miss Leslie."
"Hi, José," she replied, returning his smile.
"You brought me here?" Manuel Lopez questioned, his tone chilling still further.
As if he had never spoken, Consuelo moved forward with a broad smile. "Cousin Dolores, what a pleasant surprise," she exclaimed, and they embraced, while Paco looked on and his father stalked away, throwing his hands into the air with annoyance. Roarke made a quick gesture at Leslie, who ducked hastily into the car; but before she could even take a breath, much less ask what was going on, she found herself, the car and Roarke sitting in front of the main house, all of an abrupt sudden. She blinked rapidly and shook her head hard more than once, while Roarke calmly paused beside her seat.
"Are you all right?" he asked, sounding vastly amused.
"How the heck did we get back here in a tenth of a second?" she asked, staring at him, holding onto the back of the driver's seat in case her head began to spin.
Roarke grinned. "Another trick of the trade, which I may just teach you to perform one day," he said, extending a hand. "Come with me, we have another guest to attend to."
She slid out of the car and took a few tentative steps, and when she didn't fall down, she let out a small sigh of relief and then took another look around, just to be sure she really was where she was. "I don't know if I should tell my friends about that," she admitted. "They might not believe it."
"Then don't tell them," said Roarke, as though it should have been obvious. She rolled her eyes, making him chuckle. "Tattoo is seeing to some of the preparations for Paco's birthday party tomorrow, so you and I may as well go directly to Miss Harvester's bungalow and speak with her."
In fact, they met Nancy Harvester some paces outside the bungalow, once Roarke had made a quick detour into the house to pick up Nancy's uncle's will. "Oh, hello," Nancy said. She had at least removed the jacket, but was still dressed in the same outfit in which she had arrived; the jacket was draped over one arm and she carried several books. "I was just on my way to the main house."
"I thought perhaps we could take a little stroll," Roarke offered, "while we look at the will. Miss Harvester, I should like to present my ward, Leslie Hamilton."
"Hi, Leslie," said Nancy, and Leslie murmured a greeting, wondering why the woman wouldn't smile. Maybe she was in heavy mourning over her uncle, she imagined.
"How did Mr. Roarke get to be the executor of your uncle's will?" Leslie asked. She was truly curious, not just trying to keep the conversation alive.
Nancy thought about it, frowning, then gave Leslie a blank look. "You know, I have no idea," she admitted. "Mr. Roarke?"
"I met Mr. Harvester some twenty-five years ago," Roarke explained, "when he came to the island to invest in the hotel. The business was not well known at the time and we were still quite remote—after all, this was in the days before air travel was commonplace, and nearly all our visitors arrived here on passenger liners. Mr. Harvester provided enough capital for me to expand the hotel so that I could add fifty rooms and three top-floor suites, along with the restaurant. He remained throughout the construction of the additions, and we became good friends. After his brother and sister-in-law passed away several years later, Miss Harvester went to live with him, and he wrote to me asking if I would serve as executor of his will, now that his brother was gone. He explained that he trusted no one else as he did me, and of course I agreed."
Nancy and Leslie both nodded understanding. "Funny, we never came here before this. I didn't know about that," Nancy said. "So…what am I supposed to be inheriting?"
"Well, let's see…" Roarke mused, flipping over a couple of pages of the will before he found what he was looking for. "Ah. 'And for my niece, my sole surviving heir, in addition to material rewards', et cetera, et cetera…" He flipped another page. "Et cetera…here. 'A fantasy all her own, to repay my dear and devoted niece for all the years she sacrificed in my behalf. I wish her to laugh, and cry, and dance till dawn, and have…an affaire du coeur."
For the first time since her arrival, Nancy had actually been smiling; now that smile faded and she stared at Roarke with what looked like alarm. "A romantic affair?"
"Precisely," Roarke said with a smile and a nod.
"No!" Nancy blurted. "Please, no affair." At Roarke's bewildered look, she blundered on, "I mean, I've never had one. It's just not me. I just couldn't do it." She pressed a palm to her cheek, blushing hotly; then she seemed to freeze in place, staring at something in the near distance. Leslie and Roarke both looked the same way; perhaps thirty yards farther on, in a small clearing, stood a tall, athletic-looking young man laughing and talking with a couple of women roughly his and Nancy's age.
"What is it, Miss Harvester?" Roarke asked.
"Gene," Nancy said. "Gene Jefferson." She headed straight for the man in question, while Roarke and Leslie watched curiously.
"Hi," Nancy called out, interrupting the laughter, as she jogged up to the fellow. Both he and the women stared blankly at her. "Gene, hi…it's Nancy! Nancy Harvester. From back home. Maple Street. You know…big house, with all the barns…"
Finally some vestige of recollection appeared on Gene Jefferson's face. "Oh, the girl in the upstairs window! Old Man Harvester's niece! Yeah!" They both chuckled, perhaps too heartily; their self-consciousness seemed to radiate off them in waves, while their forced mirth died—along with the conversation. Gene peered closely at Nancy as if waiting to hear what she wanted.
Nancy threw a nervous glance at the two women. "Isn't it great, meeting like this?" she asked hopefully.
"Yeah, sure," Gene said jovially. "Nice coincidence. Well, see ya around." He turned away from her and walked off with the two women, placing a hand on the shoulder of the nearest one as they departed.
"Maybe that's why she doesn't want an affair," Leslie surmised low. "She's got a big crush on that guy."
"So it would seem," Roarke agreed quietly and guided her along as they approached a dejected Nancy, still watching Gene and his women strolling away.
Nancy heard them coming and let her upper torso slump. "Oh, Mr. Roarke," she mumbled, "I don't know what to say. I mean…I never had a sister or a girlfriend, or anybody to talk to about these things. Oh, there's so much I want to know."
Roarke smiled and offered, "I suggest that you reconsider your uncle's kind bequest of a fantasy. As a matter of fact, I know a certain woman, a lady of infinite grace and charm." He tucked the will into an inside jacket pocket as he spoke. "I could prevail upon her to come to Fantasy Island and act as…" He took in Nancy's defeated look and stance, and smiled. "Shall we call her, your own personal technical advisor."
Nancy seized on this as a lifeline. "Oh, Mr. Roarke, please, anything." He smiled agreement, and she dropped her head shyly on his shoulder. Leslie, a little embarrassed for some reason, looked around to see Gene Jefferson and his friends just disappearing around a bend in the path. Whom did Roarke have in mind, she wondered?
"Do you think she could help me get Gene's attention?" Nancy asked suddenly, lifting her head from Roarke's shoulder.
"Not only Mr. Jefferson's attention, but that of any man on the island," Roarke promised with a broad smile. "Now why don't you return to your bungalow and change your clothing, and take some time to relax at the pool or the beach, or anywhere you choose. I'll call for you in two hours, all right?"
Nancy agreed to this, thanked him and scuttled off, her scrubbed midwestern face alight with hope. Leslie watched her go, then offered, "She's very pretty. You can tell even without any makeup. Especially when she smiles, it just makes her light right up. I bet whoever your 'technical advisor' is, she won't have any trouble making Nancy attractive to men. A makeover ought to do the trick."
Roarke eyed her with interest. "Ah, my dear Leslie, you should know that ultimately, it takes much more than a pretty face, a stylish hairdo and trendy clothing to attract a man. Oh, certainly, she'll be noticed; but if Miss Harvester is as interested in Mr. Jefferson as she appears to be, it will take more than that to keep him interested in her." He made a gesture toward the path. "Let's get back to the house, we have things to do."
They walked briskly back and entered through the open French shutters, and Roarke went straight for the time-travel room while Leslie veered toward the stack of mail that sat on the desk. When she reached it, she noticed Tattoo, sitting comfortably in Roarke's chair with his feet propped on the desk, reading something. She stared at him in sheer surprise at his audacity; Tattoo glanced up, winked at her, then called out, "Hey, boss!"
Roarke, hand on the doorknob, paused, then cast Tattoo a disapproving look at his too-relaxed stance. Hastily Tattoo pulled his feet off the desk and stood up. "Where are you going?" he inquired.
"Miss Nancy Harvester's fantasy requires immediate and expert assistance," Roarke told him.
"Okay, I'm ready," Tattoo announced.
Leslie, having reached for the mail, froze; Roarke turned back from the door he'd been about to open. "This time the expert must be a woman," said Roarke pointedly, "of specific feminine abilities."
At first Tattoo looked a little confused; then his expression cleared and disgruntlement filled his round face. "Oh no, not her again!"
"Yes, Tattoo," Roarke said, sounding a bit resigned, "the situation is…critical." And he let himself into the time-travel room, closing the door behind him, though not before Leslie saw wisps of white mist escaping into the study.
"Her who?" Leslie asked, totally flummoxed. "And the way you said that, she must have been here loads of times before."
"Well, not for a few years," Tattoo admitted reluctantly. "I was starting to hope we could get along without her, but oh no…yet another hopeless case that only she can do anything about. I sure wish the boss would consult somebody else for a change."
"But who is this paragon of feminine virtue?" Leslie persisted impatiently.