PAUL BRYAN'S JOURNAL
From the diary about this episode:
[ The implausable happenings of this episode suit the action to take place in a nightmare. ]
Tuesday, April 5
Got a morning flight for Czechoslovakia, determined to be on the scene as early as possible for this special race.
When Clive finally reached Nick, it turned out that he wasn't testing in Germany as Pete had believed, but vacationing in Hawaii. Apparently though, his only answer was “no problem,” and he'll be arriving tomorrow.
I wonder if this is one of the symptoms, or if it could mean something …. Nothing that Gene Mason ever warned me about, but like Bonnaire, as soon as I arrived here, started to feel uncomfortable, even noticed a sense of menace around me, some kind of foreboding. And the more I try to shake it off, the worse it gets.
Probably just spooking myself, but this thing seems to be hovering over me. Maybe it's just a carryover from the Bonnaire claustrophobia.
A few other race people already here, and I felt a little better after connecting with them. Also met a girl in the place where they gathered, but like the rest of the city, she seemed very somber.
Nothing I said could get her to smile. She's a lab assistant, and I suggested that we might meet again tomorrow, but she was non-committal.
Had a chat with Kate before going to bed, but the line was scratchy, and we didn't talk long. One thing she said disturbed me a lot. Nick Pendleton told her that as part of plugging his new book, Judge Wilson was planning to go on the Jerry Haynes talk show.
Proposed that perhaps I should fly out after the race and try to dissuade him, and Kate agreed, lamenting our missing a couple days together due to her trip to Seattle. I told her that we'd make up for it in Rio Santos.
Wednesday, April 6
Picked Nick up at the airport, and he was definitely all Pete described. So easy going and warm, I felt immediately like we'd been friends for years - instead of fan and idol.
His stories about racing at the highest level were spell-binding, but he treated the lot with incredible casualness, using phrases like “did OK” and “got by” to describe his most spectacular wins.
Got a chance to see a friendlier face of Prague through Nick's eyes as we walked through the Old Town, and checked out a few of his haunts in the city. The lab assistant was there when we went to the “race bar,” and she took a great interest in Nick, then got up suddenly and left.
Thursday, April 7
Clive arrived in Prague, and then flew with us to Brno where Nick got a look at the car, spending a long session with Rudy.
Clive teased Nick about their being rivals next month when the Formula 1 season starts, but Nick replied the only team he belonged to at the moment was Gaffney-Bryan Mastin, and I was impressed with the camaraderie of these two men.
The Masaryk Circuit was a real challenge, but Nick drove it like the pro he is, as if he'd been in the Mastin all season. Brno didn't seem any happier than Prague, and the people appeared as uncomfortable as I did.
At one point, I saw a girl who appeared to be watching us with a kind of sceptical curiosity. She looked amazingly like the lab technician, but when I pointed this out to Nick, she was gone when he turned to see.
Had a very pleasant dinner with Nick, Clive and Rudy, and despite all the rubber burned in the last months, still had to pinch myself to realize I was socializing in this amazing company, and that it wasn't a dream.
Friday, April 8
Dream? I had one that was so horrible, my real-life screams woke Nick up in the room on the other side of the suite.
In it, we were in Prague for a race when I was approached by the lab assistant. She wanted me to help in the escape of a famous scientist, and true to form, I went along, and involved Nick too, even though we were interrogated by the local security chief.
The conspirators got him to pose as an American tourist, with the scientist disguised as their driver, and once they crossed the border, they shot Nick in the back.
Then the face of Mike Allen appeared with an evil grin, saying smugly that everything had worked to his plan. The worst thing was that I was the one who was supposed to have been in Nick's place as the American tourist.
In despair I went to Nick's grave. On the tombstone my name had been crossed out and replaced by his, and I woke up screaming and shouting, “it should have been me.”
The nightmare was so real and so painful, especially since I've probably never met a nicer human being than Nick Cooper, and there I was in the dream, completely responsible for his death, the murder of one of Pete's best friends.
Nick came running in to see what was wrong, then made me a drink, and sat around for an hour, talking about pleasant things to get my mind off the dream.
In some ways, that made the effect of the nightmare even worse - to be treated to this man's kindness still more.
After breakfast in the living room of our suite, I asked him if there was anything I could do as thanks for helping me through the dream ordeal, and to my surprise, this guy, who constantly used the phrase, “don't mention it,” said there was.
Nick told me that he was soliciting funds for a charity, and as I was the prime investor in the new Formula 1 team, perhaps I might be solvent enough to contribute.
Took out my checkbook, and asked if a thousand would be OK, and he said that was most generous. “Make it out to the Garms Clinic,” he said then, and I instantly lowered my eyes to the check, so that he wouldn't see my face.
“Some kind of medical thing?” I heard myself croaking, and Nick replied that it was a research institution in my part of the world, then said nothing more.
I looked at the shaky writing on my check, and wondered if I should make out another, then got up and told Nick that I'd like to contribute more in that case, and put the book down.
Nick had stood up, and was heading for his room. Even that little “kindness.” It made him seem a still nicer guy to have spared me an uncomfortable moment.
Went into my room, and wrote a check for $2,000, wanting to make it a fortune, but realizing it should be something realistic.
We spent much of the day testing, but my mind kept going back to Nick and the Clinic. He had a wife and two children. Maybe it was one of them. Perhaps he was just asked by the Clinic to be a celebrity sponsor.
But the thought that this wonderful human being might also be facing imminent death made the day after that nightmare a continuing downer.
Even the sparkling race conversation over dinner and in the bar afterwards couldn't bring me out of it, though everyone was quizzing me up about our stepping up to the top level of motor racing.
I gave Nick the new check when we came in, and seemed to see a look of sadness briefly cross his eyes as he took it. I was wrong about Nicole. It's probably the same with Nick. But he obviously has some interest in the obscure work of this research facility.
Saturday, April 9
With his speed and ease at the wheel, it was no surprise that Nick landed pole position, but my tenth was way outside the standard at which I'd been performing.
Clive's only comment was that the engineering team had moved over to the F1 car, as if to say that was the reason, but I knew that my concentration was the cause.
Tried to snap myself out of it, and enjoy this prestigious event among such a wide assortment of drivers. With will power, it worked, and when I allowed it to be, had a good night.
en route to San Francisco
Sunday April 10
So strange to experience Easter Sunday in a Communist country, but I was able to find a church, and prayed for inspiration.
With a freshened mentality, managed to get my car up to a fifth-place finish, and will cherish all the rest of my days this opportunity to partner one of racing's greats. Nick's victory was brilliant, and long may he live.
With Rudy and Clive eager to return to the Formula 1 car and Nick heading back to Hawaii, we all left immediately after the race. Checking out of the hotel, I was suddenly approached by the girl I'd met the first night.
She said that she needed help, and wanted me to meet her in the park just down the road. My first thought was to get a later flight. After all, it had only been a dream.
Then I thought of the wonderful opportunity to spend the long flight in Nick's company against what would probably be more trouble. And this time I said no.
In Copenhagen, was able to reach Nick Pendleton. He thought I was in San Francisco, ringing about Kate's estate, but I told him I was worried about Judge Wilson, and he jumped on the prospect that I might fly in to talk the judge out of appearing on Jerry Haynes' show.
Due to Pete Gaffney's injuries, renowned driver Nick Cooper is subbing for him at a Czechoslovakian race in the car Pete and Paul jointly own. While they're waiting for their car to clear customs, Helen Novotny makes contact with Paul, and urgently asks him to meet her.
Paul goes to the location she's appointed, and it appears that she's picked him out at random as an American in the city to help get scientist Jan Vlasek out of the country.
Helen tells Paul that Vlasek, a naturalized US citizen who left his native country, but returned for a visit, is being held against his will in Czechoslovakia, and they have arranged a way for him to escape again.
Helen admits to Paul that, like everyone else on Vlasek's staff, she is a KGB agent, but that she fell in love with the scientist, and appeals to Paul to help them.
He declines, but she asks him to think about it, and they can meet again to discuss the details.
Paul and Nick go to the US Embassy, and tell officials of Helen's approach.
The response is that the American government would be delighted to have Dr. Vlasek back, but it would have to be totally unofficial.
The drivers would be operating on their own, so it is up to them if they want to go ahead with the escape plan.
Paul is asked for a reference, and he names his friend, CIA agent Mike Allen in Berlin.
When they get back to their hotel there is a ticket from Helen for Paul to attend a concert.
He sees her there, but she avoids him.When he gets back to the hotel there is a call telling him to look in his jacket pocket where he finds tickets to a soccer game and instructions to go to the public wash room near the stadium entrance.
The next morning they are summoned to police headquarters to meet with Inspector Straka.
He questions Paul in detail about his car and position as a driver. He asks Nick about his camera and pictures he might have taken.
But in the end, the Inspector politely dismisses them. As they depart, Helen is seen entering the building flanked by two uniformed men.
Feeling safe enough, in the afternoon they go to the soccer game and meet Vlasek who conveys the escape plan which involves Paul and Helen posing as an American couple traveling by car to Germany, with Vlasek acting as their chauffeur.
Nick is to drive his own car behind to make sure that all is well.
But when Vlasek asks for Paul's passport to make up fake documents, it turns out that he left it in the car. Since Nick is carrying his, it is decided that he will be the passenger instead, and Paul will drive the chase vehicle.
Vlasek also tells them that the reason why they saw Helen with the officers that morning is that she has to report regularly about his activities.
They meet at Vlasek's home the next day where his chauffeur is altering his own uniform to fit Vlasek.
To disguise Viktor's collusion, he is tied up, and they all make a quick getaway for the border.
The car is stopped by an official along the way, but he seems satisfied with everyone's answers to his questions. Paul has to stop and pretend to change a tire in order not to get too far ahead of the Vlasek car, and as a result, they are quite a bit ahead of him when they reach the border post.
The guard looks at their documents, he immediately sees that the name on the passport is not the famous racing driver Nick Cooper whom he recognizes. Vlasek then drives on through the barrier, and the guards shoot after the vehicle, firing low to get the tires and gas tank.
But the car gets away until a while down the road, Vlasek has trouble with it, and says that it appears that the tank was hit, and they've run out of fuel. He suggests that they continue on foot, and Nick and Helen start down the road.
However, Vlasek remains at the car, and draws out a rifle, then shoots Nick in the back. He then fires a shot into the back window of the car, and then he and Helen drag Nick's body into the car and continue on their way.
Paul meets up with them in a nearby village, and is horrified to find his friend dead. After Vlasek and Helen go up to their hotel room, Paul studies the pattern of bullets in the car, and realizes what has happened. Paul is just going down the hall of the hotel to confront the couple when he is knocked out.
His assailants are CIA agents, one being his friend Mike Allen. They explain that Nick was killed to give Vlasek's escape authenticity, but instead of being able to act as spies in America, Mike says that knowing their true intent will be as good as having an agent in Vlasek's country. Paul, who had expected that they'd be arrested, tried and imprisoned, hears that the couple will be treated as national heroes. “Mike, every time I meet you, you take a little piece of my soul,” Paul says. And while limousines and outriders escort Vlasek and Helen from the village to the sound of martial music, Paul kneels by the grave of Nick Cooper as they pass.
Notes & Comments:
Once again we are expect to suspend reality to make this episode work at all. To believe that leaving the Eastern Block involves only crossing one country's checkpoint without having to immediately show papers to get into a western one. That the name of a CIA agent would be widely known by US Embassy personnel in another. Not to mention that border post barriers are particularly designed not to be knocked down with ease.
Helen stresses how secret her meetings with Paul have to be, but instead of getting together somewhere quiet and obscure, she meets him in a place where anyone watching her could easily observe.
What remains a mystery is whether Vlasek would have shot Paul after getting past the border, and then riddled the car with bullets, had Paul been able to cross as his passenger without difficulty. The idea that an American assistant had to be killed to make the escape seem genuine is a bit flimsy, but it did give the ending great poignancy, Pat Harrington having played his sympathic part with such genuineness.
Jo Swerling Jr
Director of Photography
John L. Russell A.S.C.
Hilton A. Green
John McCartey &
Robert C. Bradfield
Color by Technicolor
Editorial Dept. Head
Costumes by Grady Hunt
Assistant to Executive Producer