Roxton emerged from Marguerite's room, moved to his own quarters, then came out into their living space with his hat
and loaded rifle. On his belt Roxton also carried a hunting knife and canteen. "I have to go out." he stated, appearing resolute
if somewhat dazed.
Malone and Veronica, who had been sitting despondently near their dining area table, after having
cleared the explorer's half eaten breakfast, looked at Roxton as they might a disoriented mental patient.
are you going?" Veronica asked, standing and feeling slightly startled at the sight of Roxton, clutching his weapon, with
such an intense and haunted gleam in his eyes.
He opened his mouth to explain yet, even in the state Roxton was now
in, knew they would never understand. He didn't totally understand it himself. Marguerite was alive and he had to find her.
He had to go where she told him to look. "I'll be back soon." The hunter moved to the elevator.
"Roxton!" Malone jumped
to his feet and quickly crossed to him, clutching his friend's arm and pulling him back before he stepped into the carriage,
"You can't just leave ..."
"Why?" Roxton looked Malone straight in the eye and felt the assertive pressure removed
from his shoulder, "Why can't I leave?"
Veronica gulped, tears threatening once again as she approached and stood
behind Malone. "Marguerite, Roxton. We have to ..."
"No." Roxton slid his rifle into his back holster, his
vision focusing away from them, concentrating on a new mission, "No ... that's okay." he looked back at them, "I have to go.
There's not much time." He stepped into the lift and as it slowly descended he whispered, "I'll be back. I promise."
okay?" Malone looked unbelieving from Veronica to the descending Roxton. The hunter had gone crazy. He wasn't certain
of it until now. "You shouldn't go alone, Roxton. Wait for me!"
But the elevator had touched bottom, the water flow
refilling for the next opportunity.
Veronica ran to the balcony to see Roxton dart off in the direction of the Summerlee
River. As he disappeared into the jungle she cried, "We've got to follow him, Ned!"
"I'm getting my gun now!" Malone
shouted, behind her.
Challenger walked up the stairs from his laboratory and instantly felt a vibe from the chaos he
must have just missed. "What's happened?"
"Roxton took off into the jungle. He's got his rifle, Challenger." Malone
hit the lever which caused the elevator pulleys to screech into action, gently lifting the box upward.
"You don't think
he'd ..." Challenger began then hesitated. Roxton was grieving and not in his right mind. He'd hate to think of what the hunter
was really capable of now that the woman he loved, the only woman who could ever break his heart, was gone. "Yes, bring him
back." Challenger said, "I will see to Marguerite's body."
Malone snapped his impatience, "George, Marguerite will
wait but ..."
"No." Challenger appeared certain, "Roxton must see her prepared for burial. He is going to have to accept
this when he returns, Ned. I don't know how she died. It wasn't from the sedative. I tested it three times. An autopsy might
tell us something."
"Challenger ..." Veronica couldn't bear the thought and her expression easily displayed her torment.
we'll wait for Roxton's return before that decision is made." he added, to ease the moment. "Both of you, go get
him, and bring him home."
She walked in the fog, her bare feet sliding along the cool, smooth floor. Marguerite's
eyes were wide as she search but nothing but moist vapor greeted her for the last twenty minutes. "I've had enough of this."
she announced. "If I'm lost in one of those silly amusement park attractions will someone please tell me. If not, then where
The clouds parted and Marguerite found herself in a large room with a high ceiling. An orchestra was playing
a waltz. People were dancing and those who weren't were perched near a long table featuring an enticing array of incredible
foods and drink. She looked down at herself, no longer in her white nightdress but wearing a beautiful, elaborately sewn gown
with burgundy lace. There was a mirror on the wall next to her. Marguerite looked at herself, seeing her hair was up and small
jewels had been woven in and out of her well-coifed hair. She looked closer. There was something different about her. She
was older. No crows-feet near the eyes or a sag underneath her chin but she was older.
Marguerite!" came a boisterous, slightly inebriated, chorus from a group of three people she did not know. She watched them
in the mirror but when she turned they had already left to speak with others.
"Shouldn't you be dancing with your husband?"
a familiar voice asked, "Or is he drinking brandy and smoking cigars with the other Lords?"
Marguerite saw Ned Malone,
slightly more mature but dashing, walking toward her. He was dressed in black tie and tails, as were most of the men, and
looked very good-looking with a well trimmed mustache. "Ned ..."
"Ten years, Marguerite." he took her hands and kiss
the confused woman on her left cheek, "And they said it wouldn't last." he chuckled.
"Malone, what's going on ..?"
she started but was distracted when Challenger and Veronica approached.
"When we reach our ten year anniversary," Veronica
hooked her arm into Malone's, "Will the celebration be this big?" she asked, teasing and kissing Malone as Marguerite and
Challenger observed. Veronica wore a cream colored gown. A lovely string of antique pearls decorated her neck.
lent her the pearls, Marguerite thought. 'They're perfect for what you're going to wear to the party.' Marguerite could
hear herself saying these words to Veronica and visualized her fingers passing the string into the other woman's hands.
a newspaper man, dear. Not royalty." Malone replied with a smile.
Challenger placed a caring hand on Marguerite's arm,
"You look pale. Are you all right, Marguerite?"
"It's all the excitement, no doubt." Veronica offered.
knew none of this could be real, just like it wasn't with she and Roxton in his master bedroom, but she couldn't stop the
memories that were being forced into her head:
Challenger and Summerlee had mounted that return expedition to the plateau,
not only finding Veronica and Malone but also her parents, the survivors of the Layton expedition, in the process. They returned,
five years ago, triumphant and it was front page news for weeks. Roxton had been so thrilled. He had wanted to go himself
and they both might have taken Challenger up on the offer but the plateau was no place for children ...
a gasp, Marguerite felt the tiny six year old fingers clutch her from the side. She also felt something deep, even more profound,
touch her heart ...
"Daddy has sent me for you. William and I are going to bed. I don't want to go to sleep but Daddy
and Miss Annabelle say it's time. Will you please talk to Daddy?"
Swallowing, Marguerite looked down at the small girl
who gazed up at her mother with trusting eyes of blue. Pink ribbons adorned her long, dark hair and she beamed a winning smile
that could belong to only one other person, her father. With many emotions, including that of fear and love, Marguerite stooped
down to the child's level. "My little darling," she whispered, "we had an agreement. I told you that you and your brother
could come to the party if you go to bed when told ..." but Marguerite could feel an ache in her heart.
Elizabeth's twin, joined his sister. "Did she ask? Can we stay up?" but already the tike was yawning and his hazel eyes were
"You heard your Mother," Miss Annabelle, the children's governess, stood beside them. "To bed, children."
but she smiled at Marguerite, knowing how difficult it was for her to turn them away.
Both youngsters hugged Marguerite
around the neck, kissing her and wishing her a goodnight as well.
"Tell daddy to come to the nursery later." William
encouraged, whispering in his mother's ear. "He promised to tell me the story about Kenya again ..."
sobbed while watching the governess take their hands and lead the little ones to an exit. They were beautiful, just as she
had envisioned any children she and Roxton might produce together. "And, of course, they would be." Marguerite's expression
grew sober. This was another fantasy world, after all.
"Dance with me, Marguerite."
She heard his voice before
she saw him and felt him grasp her hand. Turning slowly, Marguerite watched the man of her dreams, looking more handsome than
she had ever seen him, with just the slightest hint of gray at his temples. She was in his arms and he impulsively swept her
across the dance floor, holding her close, twirling with the music until she was breathless. Then Lord John Roxton moved in
and kissed her lips as the music swelled. She could almost forget he wasn't real, that this whole incredible figment was a
fantasy from an odd corner of her own thoughts ... but there was a real John Roxton. She wanted to be with him,
not this image. And she wanted to see the real Veronica, Challenger and Malone too.
"Stop it!" Marguerite
cried, wrenching herself from his grasp.
The music had slowed to a stop, everyone was looking at her, confused and
"Where am I?" she shouted, "Why are you doing this to me?!"
Again, as they had done before when she
verbalized her dissatisfaction, the walls around Marguerite began to melt away.
Miss Annabelle approached, "Why do
you continue to resist?" she asked, her once sweet expression now stern with impatience, "I can give you anything you want.
Security, love and a life that is better than you could ever imagine. Don't fight it, Marguerite. Embrace what is offered."
not authentic!" Marguerite exclaimed, looking at the woman, seeing something vaguely familiar in the porcelain skin,
wide eyes and auburn hair. "The only thing that isn't an illusion here is you and me. Whoever you are, send me back to my
world, to my life on the plateau."
"Is that really where you want to be?" she asked, "Wouldn't you rather live your
life with Roxton here, in London, and be forever happy? Or are you so moronic that you find his chasing of dinosaurs and simpering
girls more appealing?"
"He doesn't chase ..." Marguerite started then clamped down on her words. She knew when she
was being heckled and when someone was trying to get information from her. "Who are you?" Marguerite asked, grimly.
met." she said, removing her governess cap, allow the red waves of hair to spill over her shoulder, "You saw me as a mysterious,
cloaked figure that sent you and your friends to hang over hot flames. You've also seen me, as I am, when I put Lord Roxton
to task. He failed nearly every test I threw at him."
"The demon that calls itself Death." Marguerite recalled,
staring her in the eye, unsmiling. "Is it my turn to play your games?"
"No, Marguerite. The only interest I have in
you is your power over Lord Roxton. I gave you your fantasy in hope that you would succumb and decide to stay. You're not
really dead, you know. It's not your time. Not that your friends could know that ..."
"Then I can leave?"
I'm finished with you, yes."
Marguerite understood what was happening and it frightened her. "You still want him. Roxton."
but I cannot have him unless he takes his life freely."
"He'll never do that. Not ever." Marguerite was quick
to point out.
The fog began to move in, once again.
"I wouldn't be so certain, Marguerite. He's just lost the
love of his life and he's very, very vulnerable to suggestion." The woman waved an expressive hand.
A portal appeared
in the fog.
Marguerite could see Roxton as he raced to the Summerlee River ....