PAUL BRYAN'S JOURNAL
From the diary about this episode:
Wednesday, July 14
Came down the mountain, and got a mid-morning flight to London. My dream trip to this city had always been to have a suite at Claridges and order a suit from Saville Row, and I've accomplished both today.
Unfortunately, also received a telegram that Pete had suffered an injury in testing, and wouldn't be arriving until tomorrow, so I wandered around and saw the sights.
As I was leaving Westminster Cathedral, a lady slipped in front of me, dropping packages in all directions. After helping her up, I retrieved the parcels, and she looked so flustered that I just had to take her into a café to collect herself.
A pretty young American working in London as a physiotherapist, Barbara and I became better acquainted quickly, so I took her to dinner, and made a date for tomorrow as well.
Thursday, July 15
The wounded hero arrived today with the final contract papers, and we sat down at the table in the suite going over everything again, the one thing we couldn't quite agree on being as important as anything.
To be sharp and snappy, Pete wanted to call the team GB Racing, and I wanted to call it Gaffney Bryan, to draw attention to Pete's name and reputation. I deferred, and we had a late champagne lunch to seal the deal.
Pete showed up for dinner with the thinnest girl I've ever met, Leslie all decked out in sequins. It was clear that Barbara felt self-conscious in the famous company, so we went our separate ways after the meal, Barbara telling me how she'd lived in the shadow of her glamorous sister Joanne.
Friday, July 16
Barbara was pleased to take me around London, showing me the sights, and I promised to bring her to Silverstone to watch Pete practice. Nice company, but Barbara is definitely a bit clingy.
When we returned to London, told her I had a business meeting that evening, and Barbara said that she must be boring company for a man who lived such an exciting life. Well, it was certainly looking that way when I went into a Mayfair bar for a drink.
A woman kept giving me the eye, rather crossly, actually, from another table, so I went over to talk to her. She spoke in riddles, and it soon became clear that she'd mistaken me for someone else. But ….. the plot she was hatching was so fantastic, I just couldn't resist playing along with her.
She indicated that she wanted me to accompany her to the wilds of Yugoslavia for some illegal purpose involving documents worth £10,000, and presented me with a photo and personal details to obtain a fake British passport for the two of us as husband and wife.
It all left me distracted and wondering whether I should just forget the experience or somehow pursue it.
Saturday, July 17
Barbara and I drove out to Silverstone to watch practice, but after a semi-sleepless night, I'd nearly made up my mind to ring Mike Allen when we got back to town. When I presented the limited details, he suggested I fly over to Berlin immediately.
Brought Barbara flowers, and told her I wouldn't be able to make our dinner date, quite excited now by the prospect of where this adventure might lead. She was again self-deprecating.
Mike complimented me on my mission to Zermatt, and told me my lady from the Mayfair bar, Gillan Wales, is an aristocrat whose father was a British agent in Yugoslavia during the War. My passion for history was set alight! Chetniks vs. Communist partisans, remnants of the old Ottoman Empire influencing religion and wartime affiliation.
Getting into the restricted mountain areas Gillan spoke of would mean unique access to hidden history. Mike himself is mad keen to get his hands on the secret documents, and has commissioned me to accompany Gillan on her journey. So now, I'm just waiting for the passports he's arranging - and eager to get started.
Over dinner Mike almost turned into a real human being, something I hardly considered him to be.
Sunday, July 18
Overnight Mike got a perfect looking British passport for Paul Baker and wife made, and I got a mid-morning flight back to London.
Rang poor Barbara, and tried to explain that I had to leave urgently for southern Europe, and couldn't even accompany her to Silverstone in the afternoon.
Thought she might jump to the immediate conclusion I was a spy, but instead, Barbara asked if she'd done something wrong. Sent her more flowers, a good-luck telegram to Pete, and checked out of Claridges, then went to present the passport to Gillan.
A bit of a scene out of the Marx Brothers at her place. It was dawning on Gillan that she might have met the wrong man at the bar, and she was starting to get cold feet when the real contact came in and denounced me as an impostor.
But as I was the one with the fake passport she needed, we took off in her waiting camper, and made it to Paris for the night.
Gillan was rather put off when I brought her to my apartment here, saying that she'd want to keep her distance from the criminal fraternity, so I suggested she stay in a hotel, but she ended up locking herself up in my bedroom while I slept on the sofa.
Yugoslavia - London - Paris
Monday - Friday, July 19 - 23
Writing this up, safely ensconced in my Paris apartment, trying to recall all the details of the last five days, certain that, while in Yugoslavia, it wasn't a good idea to put to paper anything that might be confiscated.
After this experience, am thinking that I just might have made a good spy. While the whole idea of it revolted me when the CIA attempted to recruit me in college - interesting that Mike Allen never revealed that detail in my dossier - and I feel even stronger on the subject today, it never hurts to develop a few new talents …. for the future.
We made good time driving across Europe, and if for no other reason, I was glad to see a bit of the Continent from the ground.
Considering my recent dodgy experiences on the Italian border with Yugoslavia - and because I wanted to see more of Switzerland, we approached from Austria. It all seemed safe enough since I'd be arriving with a different name and nationality.
Everything went smoothly, but Gillan remained secretive about her mission, and in return, I wouldn't reveal whether I was a criminal, policeman or journalist.
The scenery was breathtaking, each turn in the road being a new feast for the eyes. I don't remember anything like this from the European trips I made as a student. It was all cities I visited in '53 and `54.
Gillan and I stayed in a little Alpine guest house just short of the Yugoslavian border, with the idea that we might be able to make a swift transit if arriving a while after daybreak.
However, our story about being ornithologists heading for Greece didn't wash with the hefty officer on duty, and she had our car searched and told us to take off our clothes for still more probing.
Some of Gillan's secrets were swiftly revealed to me - but it wasn't the charms beneath her clothing. One was her revelation that she had taped to her leg a map to the restricted location where we were going. The other was discovered by a guard who found the gun Gillan had concealed in the camper.
Temporarily hid the map behind a picture on the wall, and was in the midst of trying to stall disrobing procedures when who should walk in but my savior from the UKC Llubjiana, none other than Sydney Crookshank.
Making it clear to him that my name was Paul Baker, and that Gillan was my wife, Sydney churned up an indignant storm with the border police, and having the British Ambassador with him to make further protests, we were allowed to dress and continue our journey, albeit in an enforced convoy with the Ambassador.
After losing the convoy in Zagreb traffic, Gillan finally divulged her mission, one that would take me direct into the pages of history as the Catholic Croats, Bosnian Muslims and Orthodox Serbs waged World War II by fighting their own corners.
Gillan's father was in the middle of it all, and she shared fascinating stories John Wales passed on to her when he was dying, including one about diamonds he had stashed in a Yugoslavian cave full of skeletons.
As a British agent he used the gems as currency, working with the Chetniks until the Allies decided that the resistance group was really giving aid to the Nazi occupiers.
But before that decision was made, many Communist partisans thought the Allies would join with the Chetniks, and dozens had given Gillan's father letters of commitment to change sides.
John Wales revealed that these documents had been hidden away with the diamonds, and they were to be my reward for helping. But the real prize for an amateur historian was a peek behind the plaster Tito had used to seal the chasms of religious and ethnic tension that underpin the Balkans.
Probably due to my absorption with the closed book Gillan had opened, I lost concentration on the road, and had a bit of a collision with an official vehicle on the way to the treasure location, and we found ourselves deposited back with the blustering Ambassador who checked us into a hotel.
Gillan suddenly got the idea that we should make a run for it, and while I was telling her all the reasons that would be disastrous, the police started knocking on our door. Some fancy footwork, and we managed to get away from the unwanted visitors, ending up taking Gillan's suggestion by default.
We camped out for the night, and she was full of chat, despite the fact we'd been up since 3 am. Maybe because she'd been drowsing while I was driving all day.
The area having been closed to access, we had to deal with only a single questionable turn before the map Gillan's father had made for her brought us directly to the treasure location.
A few old fellows hanging around since the war were watching me as I dug up the cookie box, but I kept my eyes on the work.
Inside was the stash of diamonds and the incriminating letters Mike Allen coveted. We were just congratulating ourselves on the find when the man I'd knocked out in the hotel room appeared, holding a gun on us.
He took the box and looked at the contents. One of the letters seemed to strike an instant chord, and he told his sergeant to kill us, but then shot the sergeant before he could do anything.
Our turn was seconds away, so I threw myself at the officer, and Gillan managed to kill him with the sergeant's gun just as I was about to be shot. It was horrific.
The thing was to get into Greece as quickly as possible, but Gillan suddenly had a stab of remorse and principle, saying that the diamonds belonged to Britain, and she wanted to give them over to the Ambassador we'd dealt with.
But when we drove back, I was eyewitness to another kind of history when the Ambassador rejected any suggestion of accepting the diamonds, mostly to deny what British agents were up to during the War. He then instructed us to report to the Security Minister to whom he'd handed our passports.
The crotchety diplomat also used his influence with Sydney's editor to get my friend sent on an even less friendly assignment, and on his way to the airport, Sydney made a godsend visit to our hotel, where I passed on the incriminating documents to take with him.
At District Headquarters, we were confronted with the assault at the hotel and subsequent disappearance of the man Gillan had shot.
Implying that we had an incriminating letter demonstrating that the Security Minister was willing to leave the Communists and join the other side, I admitted to the murder by the cave, but said that we expected to leave imminently with a document of safe conduct which he would sign, and for good measure, used his wartime code name.
But when I told him that the letter was safely out of the country, he did a song and dance about how clever he was, that he'd had us under surveillance, and had Sydney arrested after he visited us.
Sydney was then brought in, and made to exhibit his bags and garments, but when asked about our envelope, he produced the plum that he'd given it to some departing diplomats who owed him a favor.
The District Commander tried to get them stopped, but they and their diplomatic pouch had already flown away, so I suggested to the Minister that, in addition to allowing us safely out of Yugoslavia, he might like to buy Gillan's camper, and cool as he was, I saw a tremor in his hand as he drew the Sterling notes from his safe.
Journal continued in next column