Chronology of Events
Sunday, December 19
Hoyt Winters mentioned he was going to rent a boat and do some deep sea fishing, so I invited myself along, and we had a great day. He was a test driver in Formula 1 during Pete's heyday, and was full of interesting stories and new perspectives on my old pal.
The evening, on the other hand, didn't pan out so well. Hoyt went off to pay the boat owner, and I waited for him in a bar near the hotel.
Some soldiers were abusing the guitarist there, and an American girl got up and tried to assault them. I jumped up to come to her assistance, resp. stop her from getting into trouble, and for my pains, have bruises in too many places.
After the fighting was over, and I was laying on the floor of the bar, the demoiselle in distress then approached ME with abuse. Later, she came to my room with more criticism, then told me she was interested in interviewing the rebel leader Mario Cudero, and asking for my advice.
Just trying to kill the hours until Christmas Eve, so decided that going up the mountain could be an intriguing way to do so. I might even get a chance to meet this legendary man, and find out what he's about - a Thomas Jefferson or another Fidel.
Monday, December 20
A long day of hiking up the mountain, and though I got her to admit that she's not a journalist, am no wiser as to why Abby Powers wants to get to the rebels. There's something about her I just can't resist. She reminds me of Leslie.
But I know that the real reason I've made this journey is Juan de Real. Every dictator like the one who took Juan's life must be crushed, and Cudero just might be the man to overthrow the vile creep who's running this country.
After a day of marlin fishing, Paul encounters a girl who manages to involve him in a bar room brawl with soldiers of a brutal Latin American regime.
Later she visits him, posing as a reporter, and asks for help in locating the rebel leader Mario Cuderos.
Paul accompanies the woman to the mountain where the rebels have their strong hold.
Tuesday - Thursday, December 21 - 23
The next morning I found out what it was all about. Abby is the daughter of Eliot Powers, who had been living with the rebels to write a book about Cudero, and her goal was to get her father to come back to “civilization.”
It was obvious from the troop movements we observed that the situation on the mountain was about to explode. We made it to the territory the rebels control by evening, and were then taken captive.
Cudero allowed Abby to go to her father, but was making noises about executing me as a spy. We had a few cat-and-mouse conversations - not the interrogation I might have expected, and from an early suspicion of his motives, I came to trust in the man, gradually admire him, and end up committed to his cause.
Whether it was to secure my safety or because I wanted to help him - I wasn't quite sure at the time - I gave Cudero as many details as I could about government military activity we'd observed going up the mountain,.
Before the night was over, Eliot Powers insisted that I get Abby back to captivity, but said he wouldn't go with us. He seemed amazingly neutral about Cudero, having spent so much time with the man, and I started to reassess my own impressions of the rebel leader - then reverted to the positive thoughts I'd formed from our conversations.
Powers provided me with some identification of an American journalist named Fulton, who'd interviewed Cudero, but had written only a neutral piece about his attempt to overthrow the brutal regime.
This was supposed to achieve safe passage for me, but when we arrived at the government military camp in the morning, it turned out that the real Fulton was on the scene, and our ruse of being a reporter and photographer were further destroyed when Fulton himself appeared, and - quite innocently - identified Abby as Eliot Powers' daughter.
The government Colonel said he didn't want his victory over the rebels marred by headlines about the famous novelist being killed, and demanded that I go back up the mountain, and bring Powers with me - or that Abby would be executed.
Transport was provided most of the way, thank goodness. More a man of the sea and downhill slopes, I surely did more hiking in this period than my whole life.
We made it to Cudero's stronghold by nightfall, but Powers was reluctant to miss the final battle, even with his daughter's life at stake. It really gave me pause, to come so close to a man I'd always admired, and find him so different from the illusion in my mind.
How many times have I heard that cant, “don't meet your heroes ….” In the end, however, Powers decided to go, and I became even more impressed with Cudero, and how he was handling everything.
Powers was confident the rebels would win, because the government troops could never get the necessary fire power to blast them out.
However, when father and daughter were reunited at government HQ in the morning, we all saw the unveiling of a giant canon which would surely wipe out the rebels in a few strokes - all brought up piece by piece and reassembled on the spot.
The troops were so busy preparing for the assault that only two were spared to guard the three of us, and Powers made a few agile moves, enabling us to get their guns - and the boys were knocked cold - before Powers could be interrogated about rebel activities.
Abby hid out, and Powers led me back to the canon which was being manned by three men. In overcoming them, I killed two, and in the heat of the moment, didn't stop to think that this was a strange way to be celebrating the birth of Christ.
At the rate things were going, that beautiful dream of Christmas Eve with Kate was starting to look like a slim possibility. But at the time, my mind was only on overthrowing a ruthless regime, and adrenalin moved me forward without thinking.
Powers sabotaged the giant gun, and we made our way out of the danger zone before the cannon blew up, and put the rebels on more equal terms with the government troops.
As we hurried down the mountain, Powers constantly analysed the sounds of gunfire and explosions, and felt sure that the rebels were getting the upper hand.
His knowledge of the terrain amazed me, and he seemed to be following breadcrumbs as his route led us out of the scene of shelling to the nearby town.
Despite having less than six hours sleep in the last 48, before things got too “interesting,” I picked up my belongings at the hotel, and got a drive to the airport.
But all hell had broken loose there, and only with promises of untold riches, did I get the taxi driver to take me over the border, and on to an airport where I could get a flight out.
It took until well after midnight, but bumpy as it was, I slept most of the way, and at dawn, was at last on a flight to the US, albeit in the opposite direction from the one I want to go.
24 December 1965 ("The Mustafa Embrace" /
"Time and a Half on Christmas Eve")
It turns out that Abby Powers is really seeking the rebel camp to see her father who is living there. He is a famous novelist, planning to write a book about the charismaticrebel leader.
Though Paul is first a suspected spy when he and Abby are captured by the rebels, some conversations between Paul and Mario Cuderos change their relationship from one of distrust to the opposite.
Eliot Powers insists that Paul get his daughter off the mountain the very same night, as an attack by government troops is imminent.
When they arrive at the government camp in the morning, the commander is made aware that Abby is Eliot Powers' daughter, and he holds her as a hostage to get her father to come away from the rebels - so that his death won't grab all the headlines from the victory he is expecting.
Paul is sent to bring the novelist back, and after another trip up and down the mountain for him, the father and daughter are once again reunited.
But Powers sees that the government troops have fire power he never dreamed of, and he takes advantage of little concentration on him in the midst of the imminent attack to overpower his guards, and sabotage the canon brought up piece by piece by government troops.
The fight is now more equal, and Paul, Powers and his daughter flee the scene after the giant gun blows up.