“Nancy, tell me this isn’t the life!”
Nancy Drew shaded her eyes with her hand and glanced over at her friend Bess Marvin, who was lying on the lounge chair next to hers.
“It’s fantastic,” Nancy agreed, brushing her reddish blond hair back. “Right, George?” Nancy asked.
Bess’s cousin, George Fayne, sighed contentedly from the lounge chair on the other side of Nancy. “Heaven,” she replied.
The three girls were on board a luxurious yacht owned by supermodel Martika Sawyer, heading out of the harbor of Charlotte Amalie, on the island of St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. From their spot near the stern, they watched the town’s lovely whitewashed buildings grow smaller and smaller as the boat neared the headland on the west side of the harbor. In less than an hour they would dock at Rainbow Cay, where they’d be spending the week as Martika’s guests for the grand opening of her resort spa, Cloud Nine.
“I still can’t believe it,” Bess went on. “A week at a brand-new resort spa on a private island in the middle of the Caribbean, getting in shape, eating healthy food — “
“Easy on the food, Bess,” George interrupted, “even if it is healthy. You said you wanted to lose weight this week.”
“Don’t be a killjoy, George,” Bess said. “Remember, this vacation is free, thanks to Nancy.”
Nancy lay back, closed her eyes, and contemplated how it had all come about. Her father, the lawyer Carson Drew, had once done some work for the world-famous model and had told Martika about his daughter’s detective work. Then, five days earlier, Nancy had gotten a call from Martika.
“I have a problem that I don’t want to talk about over the phone,” Martika had said. “Could you please come to the opening of my new resort? As my guest, of course. You see, I’m afraid there may be some trouble.”
Nancy had wanted to ask questions, but Martika had been firm about not answering any of them until Nancy came down to Cloud Nine. “Bring a friend or two,” Martika had said. “You’ll have a wonderful time, and you’ll be doing me an enormous favor.”
Nancy was convinced — the chance to bring George and Bess had been irresistible. A week in the Caribbean with her two best friends, and a mystery to solve. The perfect vacation!
Nancy opened her eyes and realized that the yacht was now out of the harbor. It was hugging the southwest coast of St. Thomas, which was dotted with colorful villas and hotels. She glanced toward the bow, where a group of people were gathered. They appeared to be Martika Sawyer’s celebrity guests. She had invited them to join the paying customers for the opening of Cloud Nine.
“George,” she said, focusing on one of them. “The guy in the Cloud Nine polo shirt. Isn’t that Kurt Yeager?”
George took off her mirrored sunglasses to get a better look. “It is!” she said excitedly. “Wow!”
“Who’s he?” Bess wanted to know.
“The former world decathlon champion, that’s who,” George replied.
“He does look familiar, now that you mention it,” Bess said. “And gorgeous, too. Was he in any movies?”
“As a matter of fact, he did do some acting after he retired from competition,” George said.
“Wasn’t he in The Flame Throwers?” Nancy asked.
“Yes. Unfortunately it was one of the biggest flops of the past five years,” George said. “I guess being in it kind of finished his movie career.”
“Now I remember where I saw him!” Bess said suddenly. “He was in Celeb magazine. He used to be engaged to Martika Sawyer!”
“That’s right,” George said. “Well, I guess they must still be good friends if Martika invited him to the opening of her spa.”
“If I remember right, they just broke up last winter,” Bess said. “It was kind of rough.”
Nancy watched Kurt closely. He had a clipboard in his hands, and he seemed to be making checks on a list of some kind. Was Kurt Yeager a guest or was he working for Martika Sawyer?
At that moment Kurt detached himself from the little group and wandered back to Nancy and her friends, his California-blond hair gleaming in the sun. “Hi,” he said, smiling down at the three of them. “I’m Kurt Yeager.”
“Yes, we know,” Bess told him, giving him a big smile. “I’m Bess, and this is Nancy, and this is George. She’s an athlete, too.”
George rolled her eyes at her cousin, then turned to Kurt. “I’m a big fan of yours. I watched you win the world championships the last time you competed. You were incredible.”
“Thanks,” Kurt said. “Yeah, those were the good old days. Now I’m in a different business — director of guest services and fitness supervisor for Cloud Nine.” He smiled and heaved a little sigh. “Well, if you’ll tell me your last names, I’ll check you off my list.”
So he is working for Martika, Nancy thought to herself as George told Kurt their last names. Kurt and Martika must have patched things up if he was on her staff at Cloud Nine.
“I do sports training sessions and exercise classes,” he told them. “I hope you sign up for some of them so we can get to know one another. In fact, I’m giving a body-sculpting demonstration later today. Why don’t you come?” He was gazing at George when he said it.
“Sounds great,” she responded, blushing.
“We should reach Rainbow Cay in about twenty minutes,” Kurt told them. “It’s just across the strait. By the way, there’s a buffet laid out in the cabin, in case you want a snack. Dinner’s not till seven tonight.”
“Thanks, Kurt,” Bess said as he waved and walked over to another group of guests. “He likes you, George, I can tell.”
“Will you stop it, Bess?” George said. “I admire him. He’s a great athlete.”
“And a world-class hunk,” Bess said, giggling.
“Actually, I kind of feel sorry for him,” Nancy said. “Being an employee at a health spa when you used to be a world-class athlete and movie star is kind of a comedown. He must be totally frustrated.”
“Let’s check out the buffet,” Bess said, getting up and stretching. “I’m starved.”
“I seem to remember that you ate on the plane,” George commented.
“Ick. Don’t remind me,” Bess said, making a face. “Are you guys coming?”
Nancy and George followed Bess below to the cabin. Other guests were standing around the buffet table, filling their plates and chatting.
“See that tall lady over there — the one with the gold silk top?” Bess whispered to her friends. “That’s Helen MacArthur, the editor of Savoir Faire. “
“There’s Sadie Thomas,” George said, pointing to an attractive redhead holding a stemmed glass. “She looks better in person than on screen, don’t you think?”
“She does,” Bess agreed as she piled pasta salad on her plate. “And, oh, wow — isn’t that Morgana Ricci, the billionaire shipping heiress?”
“Which one?” Nancy asked.
“With the frosted hair and big diamond bracelet,” Bess replied.
George gasped. “Those diamonds must be worth a fortune!”
“Excuse me,” Nancy said, trying to reach around a tall, thin young woman who was standing in front of the silverware. Unlike the other guests, she didn’t look like a celebrity. She was wearing no makeup as far as Nancy could tell.
Her black hair was cut simply, in no particular style, and her flowered dress didn’t flatter her. “Could I get a fork?”
“Oh, sorry!” the young woman said, jumping back. “I guess I was in the way.” She was obviously shy and spoke with an accent.
“That’s okay,” Nancy said, giving her a warm smile. “Are you from Australia? I couldn’t help noticing the accent.”
“New Zealand, actually. I’m Maura McDaniel,” she said, offering her hand to Nancy.
“I’m Nancy Drew,” Nancy replied. “And these are my friends, George Fayne and Bess Marvin.”
“G’day,” Maura said, taking them in with her clear blue eyes. “Are you all famous? I guess you must be, if you’re here,” she added, blushing.
“Um, no. We’re not famous at all,” Nancy said, not wanting to say why they’d been invited. “We’re friends of Martika. How about you?”
“Oh, me?” Maura seemed surprised at the question. “I won a contest. Coming here was the prize. Isn’t that amazing? Never won anything in my life before.” She let out a nervous giggle. “Oh, well. I’m looking forward to creating a ‘new me.’ That’s what the Cloud Nine brochure said.”
Nancy couldn’t help feeling sad for the young woman. She didn’t seem to have a lot of confidence in herself. Maybe a week at Cloud Nine would do her good, Nancy thought.
Just then the ship’s horn sounded, and the motor slowed. “Are we there already?” Bess asked, surprised. “Let’s go on deck and see.”
They all went back outside to stand at the rail. Straight ahead of them was Rainbow Cay, an emerald green speck of an island rising straight out of the sea.
Nancy could see a small harbor, where a handful of Windsurfers were gliding across the waves. Beyond the dock the island rose sharply in a steep, terraced hillside. A twisting drive lined with royal palms led up to what appeared to be the main building of the resort, a pink stucco fantasy with lots of windows and crisp white awnings. As the boat drew nearer, Nancy could see tennis courts and smaller buildings surrounding the main one.
“Most of the guests arrived earlier today,” Kurt Yeager explained to the group gathered at the rail. “That’s so all of you can make a grand entrance.” The small crowd of celebrities laughed at Kurt’s little joke. Nancy couldn’t help thinking that he made an excellent host.
The yacht pulled up to the dock slowly. On land, a festive parade of motorized carts linked together like a train waited to take the guests and their luggage up to the main house.
Cutting a straight line up the hill from the dock to the main house was a staircase. It looked like a tough climb on a hot afternoon. Nancy was glad they were getting a ride.
The girls went ashore and took seats in a cart while Cloud Nine staffers attended to the baggage. As they rode up the hill, marveling at the spectacular views of the strait and St. Thomas in the distance, Kurt stood up in the front cart and addressed them over a small loudspeaker.
“Folks, I just want to show you some of our facilities as we go by. Over there,” he said, pointing to the left of the main building, “is our swimming complex. We’ve got a big fresh-water pool for you lap swimmers, a saltwater pool, and three hot tubs. One of our water aerobics teachers was in the last Olympics. In fact, we’ve got more sports professionals on our staff than they have at any of the Christina Adams spas,” he announced good-naturedly.
This drew an appreciative laugh from the guests, Nancy included. Christina Adams spas were the most famous in the world.
When the train of carts turned back toward the right side of the island, Kurt said, “We’re passing our tennis courts now. Two-time U.S. Open winner Paul Flores is our instructor. He teaches the mental game as well as the physical. Our workout center and exercise studios are beyond the courts. High- and low-impact aerobics, strength and alignment, yoga, step classes, body sculpting, one-on-one training — you name it. We’ve also got every kind of training machine you could possibly imagine, plus biofeedback, nutritional counseling, hypnotherapy, stress reduction, and sports medicine.”
The train of carts stopped for a moment to let two joggers in bright blue Cloud Nine spandex shorts cross the road in front of them. When it started up again, Kurt went on. “The health and beauty building is connected to the workout center by a covered walkway. That’s where you go for massages, hairstyling, makeovers, facials, manicures and pedicures — the works.”
Nancy glanced at Bess and George. They seemed as impressed as she was.
“What you can’t see from this side of the island,” Kurt went on, “is our magnificent swimming beach. It’s on our south shore, behind the main house. It is completely secluded because Cloud Nine is the only resort or house of any kind on Rainbow Cay.”
A round of applause answered him. Nancy couldn’t help thinking that if Kurt didn’t like his job, he was doing a terrific job of hiding it.
Kurt kept pointing things out as the cars swung around one sharp turn after another. “Below us, near where we docked, is our other beach. The surf’s calmer there. That’s where you’ll find our scuba shack. We’ve got snorkeling, diving, an underwater trail along the reef, sailboats, jet skis, Windsurfers — and instructors to help you with everything.”
Just then the carts reached the top of the hill and came to a stop. Martika Sawyer, radiant in a pink pastel caftan, was standing on the steps of the resort to greet them. Her raven hair glistened in the sunlight, and her ice blue eyes sparkled. Nancy had to admit that she was as beautiful as she appeared to be on her magazine covers.
A few photographers were standing around her, ready to shoot Martika and the new celebrity arrivals. Nancy supposed they were members of the press covering the opening of Cloud Nine.
“Welcome, welcome, welcome!” Martika gushed, blowing kisses to her guests. “I’m thrilled that you’re here. We’re going to have a fabulous time together.”
Nancy noticed that Martika and Kurt barely nodded to each other. As he stepped out of the cart, he seemed to have lost all of his energy. He backed away, leaving Martika to her friends and admirers.
A prosperous-looking middle-aged man with silver hair joined Martika on the steps. “I’d like you all to meet Preston Winchell, my silent partner.” She gave the man’s arm a squeeze.
“Hello, everyone,” he said with a smile and a nod. “Hope you all have a great time.”
“There, you see?” Martika said. “He’s not so silent after all!”
Joining Martika on her other side was a tall, handsome man with dark hair and blue eyes almost identical to Martika’s. He held a pair of binoculars in one hand. Martika now slipped her arm through his and introduced him. “And this is my brother, Derek,” she explained. “If you have any questions and can’t find me, he’ll be happy to help you. Won’t you, Derek?”
“Thrilled,” Derek echoed, smiling and nodding to the guests. Nancy detected a hint of sarcasm in his tone.
Just then Derek’s expression changed to a frown as he peered into the distance. “There seems to be another boat approaching,” he said. He lifted his binoculars to his eyes. “We aren’t expecting any more arrivals, are we, Martika?”
“Give me those,” Martika said quickly, taking the binoculars from him and training them on the large yacht that was now entering the harbor.
Suddenly Martika gasped and dropped the binoculars.
“What is it, Martika?” Preston Winchell asked, taking one of her hands in his.
“I’ll kill her!” she said, her eyes wild with fury as she stared out at the harbor. “I’ll murder that woman if it’s the last thing I do!”