By: xffan_2000 and Melissa Jones

E-mail: and

First printed: More Red Holt Steele #4

Summary: Set in 1974, college-student Laura is drug to a carnival where she encounters a cocky fire-eater.

Disclaimer: This “Remington Steele” story is not-for-profit and is purely for entertainment purposes. The author and this site do not own the characters and are in no way affiliated with “Remington Steele,” the actors, their agents, the producers, MTM Productions, the NBC Television Network or any station or network carrying the show in syndication, or anyone in the industry.


1974...Laura was sprawled across her bed, on her stomach. The book was on the floor, and she stared down at it, trying to plow her way through chapters eight through ten of her Western Civilization assignment.

To be perfectly honest, she didn't care one way or the other how Roman civilization fell, but the teacher was insisting on that test on Monday.

It was a perfectly raunchy way to spend a Saturday night. Her roommate, Barbs, had left with her boyfriend--affectionately known as Fricky--in the mid-afternoon. And Laura had been alone for the rest of the day.

Nearly everyone was gone, as was the usual case on the weekend. Stanford, being so close to San Francisco, seemed nearly deserted on Saturday afternoons.

Laura had done some laundry, wandered to the student union, listened to a Rolling Stones album, then finally resigned herself to homework.

She wished she had a boyfriend. Not necessarily like Fricky--he was a bit too strange for her liking. But ever since her high school boyfriend Marty had dumped her for a cheerleader, Laura had avoided getting serious with anyone. Until...

Her eyes traveled from the Western Civ textbook to the red-rimmed glasses that sat on the floor next to it. She couldn't believe she'd actually gone out and bought a pair of fake glasses to make her look "more intelligent." But, that calculus teacher really got her juices flowing.

Actually, he was more of a teacher's assistant. But Laura still thought he was horribly handsome. His short, blonde hair, his green eyes that would catch her glances in class, his baseball-player body, all of it would set her heart to pounding. She found it very difficult to figure out the square root of anything when Mr. Harrison spoke.

In the back of her mind, Laura figured the whole thing was pointless, since students and teachers shouldn't mix "business" with pleasure. And, there was the age difference. Harrison was at least four years older than she was. She wasn't exactly sure of his age, but she knew he was working on his Master's degree.

Laura picked up the glasses and rolled onto her back. She was still hanging half-way off her bed, and her ponytail brushed the floor. She put the glasses on, closed her eyes and let out a long sigh. Harrison was so hot, and she seriously doubted she'd ever find another person to make her blood boil like he did.

Hopeless infatuation, Holt, she told herself, flopping back onto her stomach to peer down at the book again.

Barely two sentences into a paragraph explaining the difference between Ionic and Doric columns, the door of the dorm flew open. Barbs and Fricky rushed in.

"Come on, Laura, we've got something fun to do," Barbs said, bending down and slapping Laura's textbook shut.

"Hey!" Laura said, then softened. "What hare-brained form of entertainment do you have in mind this time?" She asked, sitting up.

"Something I know you'll love," Barbs continued.

"What's with the glasses, Laura?" Fricky asked, a huge grin on his face. "They make you much more intelligent."

Barbs flushed at the same time Laura did, and gave Fricky a swift slap on the arm.

Laura removed her glasses as she, too, considered decking Fricky. "You're a real prize, you know?" She said.

Fricky plopped himself down beside Laura and took the glasses from her hand. He quickly put them on. The next thing Laura knew, he had his hands outstretched, groping at the space in front of him, his eyes squinted nearly to the point of closing.

"Geeze, Holt! This is a strong prescription!"

Barbs snatched the glasses from his face and gave him a sour look. "Will you knock it off?"

Fricky looked at Laura sheepishly. "Sorry."

Laura shook her head. "How do you stand this guy?" She asked Barbs, still looking at Fricky.

Barbs grinned. "I'm just using him for sex."

Fricky grinned back. "And I love every minute of it, too."

Laura rolled her eyes and stood up from the bed. "You two make me sick," she said jokingly. Inside, however, she wished she had someone to use for least once. "So, what's your big plan for the evening, Barbs?" She asked, forcing the thought of her calc professor from her mind.

"Oh!" Barbs sat down on her own bed. "There's a traveling carnival about five miles from here. And I know you said you like carnivals."

Laura felt a slight sting in her heart. It was true, she used to love carnivals. Her father had taken her to many over the years. But, since he had left, she hadn't been to one. In fact, she felt she'd become a little cynical about the whole issue.

"So?" Fricky asked. "You ready to go?"

"Uh, well..."

"Oh, come on, Laura," Barbs coaxed, "we can't have you sitting around the dorm on a Saturday night dreaming about a good-looking T.A. You need to get out!" She got up and shoved Laura toward the door, grabbing her purse from the desk. "I'll even pay your admission."

With very little to say in the matter, Laura was lead from the dorm to Fricky's less-than-nice car. The three drove the short distance to the carnival. It was set up in an abandoned parking lot, stuck out in an industrial section of town.

Laura could smell the wonderful mix of aromas even before they pulled to a stop: greasy popcorn, motor oil and burnt corn dogs. The lights of the rides lit up the night sky, and hokey carousel music was piped through a speaker system.

Her skepticism was gone, and Laura felt like she was eight years old again.

She remained in the child-like frame of mind for most of the evening, taking time to down two corn dogs, a snow-cone and some cotton candy. Miraculously, she didn't feel at all sick on any of the rides.

As the evening drew to a close, Fricky proceeded to lose $10 trying to knock over a stack of cans with a hollowed-out baseball.

"Come on, Fricky," Barbs pleaded. "You don't need to win me that stupid bear. You could go out and buy one cheaper than what you've just lost."

The carney leisurely tossed another baseball up and down, trying to coax his mark into another game.

"Fricky," Laura said quietly, "it's all rigged. You can't win."

Fricky gave one last, long look at the still-standing cans. He sighed, then shrugged, finally defeated. "Okay."

The three continued down the midway, toward the exit. Mixed in between the various games were the "special" acts.

A slender woman, wearing nothing but a tiny bikini, caught Fricky's eye. He approached the small, raised stage and gazed up at the woman. Barbs and Laura, realizing their male companion had abandoned them, turned to see him glued to the show.

"What a pig," Laura commented, making her way back to him.

Fricky was totally engrossed in the sight. So engrossed, in fact, that he didn't notice the woman pull an eight-foot python seemingly from nowhere. When he suddenly found himself face to face with a hissing snake, Fricky panicked. His eyes went wide as he let out a short shriek.

Barbs and Laura laughed as they watched him make a hasty retreat.

"What's the matter, Fricky?" Laura smiled deviously. "Don't like snakes?"

Fricky stopped when he was a safe distance from the snake lady. He leaned up against another stage. This one contained a man, his hair greased back and a mustache painted on, juggling flaming torches.

"Good, God," Fricky said, catching sight of the fiery performance. "I guess this is what they call the 'weirdo' section, huh?"

Laura and Barbs watched the man, whom the brightly painted sign behind him called "The Great Savini," toss the torches into the air and catch them almost effortlessly.

He ended the juggling act, making a great show of the fact that he was hot. He wiped a wrist over his forehead, then reached for a drink from the glass next to him.

Laura leaned to Barbs. "That's a kerosene and alcohol solution. He'll be able to 'breathe fire' by spitting it onto the torches."

Even over the din of the crowd, The Great Savini heard Laura's comments. He gave her a slightly annoyed glance...people weren't supposed to spoil the secret.

Savini sprayed a short burst of the liquid into the fire, causing a huge ball of flames to explode in the air. The crowd gasped, impressed with the display.

Laura tapped Barbs. "Come on, let's get going."

"Okay," Barbs agreed, taking Fricky by the hand.

The trio passed in front of the stage, with Laura in the lead. She hadn't noticed, but Savini had dropped to his knees, only a few feet from her. As she approached, he blew a stream of fire in her path.

Laura stopped short, still feeling the warmth of the flames hanging in the air only inches from her.

Barbs gasped, as did Fricky and the rest of the audience.

Laura stood perfectly still for a long moment. Then, she slowly turned her head to Savini, a look of pure rage burning in her brown eyes.

Savini blew the last bit of his concoction into the air harmlessly. Then, he flashed a teeth-filled smirk at Laura, followed by a quick wink.

Laura's jaw fell open.

Savini leapt to his feet, extinguished the torches in his mouth and held his arms in the air. The crowd cheered loudly.

Savini shot Laura a final glance, his blue eyes sparkling with playfulness, before he hastily exited to the back of the stage.

"Well, that guy was certainly charming," Barbs said as she, Fricky and Laura walked away.

"Yeah, so charming that if I ever see him again, I'll probably clobber him," Laura seethed.

"Well, cheer up. The carnival will be gone in a couple of days, and I doubt that you'll ever cross paths with the Great Savini again," Barbs consoled.

"We could find out," Fricky said, pointing to a trailer off to his right. The trailer was painted with swirls of color, with the name "Madame Zalta" emblazoned across it.

"No way, Fricky," Laura protested, crossing her hands in the air. "I sure as hell don't believe in that stuff."

"Oh, come on, Laura! It's just for fun," Fricky argued. "Where's your sense of humor? Lighten up! Tell her, Barb."

"It would be fun. Who knows, maybe we can see if you get that calc professor in the future," Barbs teased. "I mean, you haven't dated since you and Marty Klopman broke up."

"Ugh! Don't remind me about that disaster," Laura groaned. "The only good thing that came out of that was the cool hiding places he showed me."

"All the more reason to find out about your future," Fricky pointed out. He grabbed Laura by her wrists and pulled her up the narrow steps to the trailer's front door.

"Fricky!" Laura whined. "No!" Barbs laughed and followed the two inside.

The trio stopped and grew silent at the sight of the somber interior. The room they stood in was dark, lit only by candles, which cast eerie shadows on the black walls. The room appeared to be the sitting room. Two plush, worn, red velvet couches lined the wall on either side of the doorway. Two large, red velvet curtains served as the wall in front of them. The trio stood side-by-side in the center of the sitting room, uncertain of their next move.

"Well?" a deep, heavily-accented female voice called from the other side of the curtain. "Are you just going to stand there, or are you coming in?"

Laura glanced at Barbs on her right, who shrugged and smiled. Laura turned to Fricky on her left. He grinned broadly at her and gave her a shove toward the curtain. Laura stumbled between the two curtains, entering the back parlor. Fricky and Barbs followed, blocking the retreat Laura was contemplating.

The parlor was decorated in much the same fashion as the sitting room, except for the furniture. The center of the room was occupied by a small, round table. A long, purple, shimmering tablecloth covered the table, and a crystal ball sat on a pedestal in the middle. Four wooden and velvet chairs were scattered about the room. Two sat side-by-side against the back wall of the trailer. The other two sat opposite each other at the table. One chair was already occupied by a dark-haired, middle-aged woman dressed in gypsy-style clothing. She raised a long, slender finger toward Laura.

"You, sit," Madame Zalta ordered, pointing toward the chair opposite her. "You other two may sit there." She motioned toward the remaining chairs. Fricky and Barbs obeyed immediately, grasping each other's hand for support. Laura stood for a moment, nervousness washing over her as Madame Zalta stared at her plainly. She swallowed hard, staring back at Madame Zalta with a blend of curiosity and apprehension. Suddenly, she remembered her skepticism. Squaring her jaw in defiance, she took her appointed seat.

"What do you want?" Madame Zalta asked, dragging out each syllable dramatically as she stared at Laura.

"She wants to know if there's a man out there for her," Fricky piped up playfully. Barbs smacked him on the knee to silence him, but the glare from Madame Zalta did the trick.

"You want to know what's in store for you, yes?" Madame Zalta addressed Laura again. "Where your life is going, and with whom?"

"Yes, " Laura said, playing along. "Can you look in your crystal ball and answer all my questions?"

"Don't be ridiculous," Madame Zalta replied, smiling for the first time. "The ball is just a prop for dramatic effect. For the people I can fool without having to truly apply my powers. That is not you." Laura's eyes widened slightly, and she raised her eyebrows in curiosity. "With you, I must truly use my talents. Which won't be hard. I could tell the moment you entered that you have a powerful aura. Your destiny is strong, even if your confidence in it is weak at the moment."

Laura stared at her, startled by Madame Zalta's revelation of her innermost insecurities. Lucky guess, she told herself, trying to hang on to her disbelief.

"Give me your left hand," Madame Zalta ordered. Laura obeyed. Madame Zalta studied her palm intently. Laura glanced to Barbs and Fricky, who sat silently, watching in awe. She returned her gaze to Madame Zalta.

"You are uncertain of your future, but you will find the answers you seek soon," Madame Zalta said, still studying Laura's palm. "Your life will be full of adventures and danger, yet you will have a long one. You will be aimless for awhile longer, but a heartbreak will turn you toward your true destiny. It is your love of adventure that will lead you to your destiny."

Laura eyed her with amazement, her skepticism reluctantly fading at the deep truths Madame Zalta was revealing. Laura hadn't really told anyone of her love for danger and adventure. Not even the rest of the Girls of Four East, even though her behavior sometimes hinted of it.

"And, yes," Madame Zalta continued, glancing at Fricky before studying Laura's palm again. "There is a man in your future. He is a strong part of your destiny; very involved in it. There are a few insignificant romances. There is one of importance, but he, too, fades away. It is the foreigner who burns strongly in your future."

"Foreigner?" Laura whispered, entranced.

"Yes. I can tell you nothing of him. He is a mystery, an enigma. You will fear his mystery, and the power he has over you, but you will not be able to resist his draw. Nor will he be able to resist yours. There may be an interest in one or two others while you're with him, but it is the mysterious foreigner who prevails in your heart. He will aid your destiny, and bring you the joy and peace you seek."

Madame Zalta dropped Laura's hand, straightened, and stared at her unemotionally again. Laura stared back in awe.

"That is all I can tell you. Any more may interfere in the normal track your life is to take. I hope that answers the questions you have," Madame Zalta said. "Now, it is late, and I must close. Thank you for coming." She dismissed them with a nod toward the curtain.

Barbs and Fricky took the cue, rising from their seats and pulling Laura out of hers. Laura rose reluctantly, still staring at Madame Zalta.

"Thank you. It was very entertaining," Barbs said politely, pulling Laura toward the curtain.

"Yeah, great, thanks," Fricky replied, exiting the parlor. Barbs continued to pull Laura out of the parlor by her elbow. Laura's eyes never left the older woman.

"Thank you," Laura whispered. Madame Zalta managed a half-smile as she nodded slightly to Laura before she was pulled from the trailer.

The three friends stood on the midway, which was abuzz with the activity of closing for the night. Barbs and Fricky looked at each other and burst out laughing.

"Man, that was great!" Fricky cried, still laughing. "'A mysterious stranger will aid your destiny.' How corny!"

"A mysterious foreigner. And here I thought you only liked Americans, Laura," Barbs chimed in, chuckling.

"Yeah," Laura acknowledged, still thinking about Madame Zalta's words. She knew she should dismiss it as garbage, but something deep inside told her differently. After all, Madame Zalta was right about her love for adventure and her insecurities of life after college. Could she have been right about the rest of it as well?"

"Hey, Laura." Barbs said, gently squeezing Laura's arm. "You still with us?"

"Huh? Oh, yeah," Laura said, breaking out of her thoughts.

"You don't seriously believe that stuff, do you?" Fricky asked.

"No. No, of course not. I told you that it's all fake, right?" Laura said, trying to laugh the situation off. Yet, as hard as she tried, Madame Zalta's words kept haunting her somehow. "Come on, it's late, and I do have a test to study for. Let's go," she said, walking toward the parking lot.

Barbs shot Fricky a concerned glance as they followed.

Madame Zalta exited her trailer and watched the three young friends walk out of the carnival entrance. A smile crossed her lips as she stared at the young brunette whose palm she had read. She could have told her everything, but it was better for the girl to find out for herself.

"Zalta, my beauty...finished enlightening the masses for the evening?"

Zalta turned as Harry approached her, still carrying his fire batons. She smiled a knowing smile.

"Perhaps," she said, "you will will let me read your future now?"

"Oh, I don't think so," Harry laughed. "If it's anything like my past, I'd rather not know."

"Ease your troubled mind, my boy," Zalta replied, walking up to him and stroking his ebony hair affectionately. "I have seen your destiny tonight. I have met it, and so have you, though you didn't realize it."

"Really? Met my destiny, have I?" Harry replied in an unbelieving tone. "I hope it was friendly. So, what is my destiny, Zalta?"

Madame Zalta smiled. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you. You will find out in good time. I will say this. Although you didn't know your destiny tonight, you will know it upon your second meeting, and it will bring you the comfort and happiness you have forever been seeking. It will be built upon the stability you so desperately want."

Harry stared at Zalta with uneasiness. Finally, he grinned. "Well, I hope she's pretty. And spirited." He began walking toward his trailer to retire for the evening. "Hey, maybe she'll be like that brunette I singed this evening. She looked friendly," he joked. "'Night Zalta." He waved to her and continued toward his trailer.

Zalta watched his retreating form and smiled. "Ah, my dear boy, you don't know how right you are." She smiled again and turned to enter her trailer.