Chronology of Events
Las Vegas - en route to Milan
Sunday, August 1
Got connections at JFK for Milan, expecting my hands wouldn't be up to carrying a suitcase or being jolted about in transit, but no, they are only a little stiff. Healed amazingly quickly. As always with me.
All the bangs and bumps on my way to the judo and karate black belts inevitably were gone within a day or two. I never needed to consult a doctor. And my healing powers still seem to be in full force. How can someone with an immune system like that have a consuming disease?
Monday, August 2
Met by a traumatized Barbara at the airport, and found that she wanted more than someone to hold her. She asked me to investigate her sister's death, something for which I have no qualifications.
Breaking down when I explained this, she said I was the only person she could turn to - my own words to Dwight reverberated in my head. But I had to point out to her that whatever we might or might not accomplish, I had to fly to Rio on Thursday.
She accepted that in her self-deprecating way, and we came up with a little plan of my posing as an insurance investigator with the hope of getting something a bit more solid than Barbara's suspicions to give to a proper private detective.
She had recently visited her sister in Milan, and was able to give me a number of starting points. Barbara was particularly suspicious about Joanne's lover, who'd been away when she was there.
He's a businessman named Verbeck, so I started out, asking around at banks and various organizations about him, then went to a couple restaurants they frequented, and also the travel agent both used.
Took the opportunity to open an account at the Banco di Roma to add to the ones I have now in Paris and London, then had dinner in my suite with the despairing Barbara during which we rehearsed her part for tomorrow.
Paul flies to Milan to give aid and comfort to his friend Barbara Sherwood whose sister has drowned in a lake
Posing as an insurance investigator for the company that held Joanne Harley's double indemnity policy, Paul asks questions around Milan about Joanne's lover, businessman Heinrik Verbeck
Tuesday, August 3
In my guise as insurance investigator, consulted the police Inspector on Joanne's case, who was accommodating, but believed that there was absolutely nothing to indicate that her drowning was anything but an accident.
Back at my hotel, there was a summons from the very person I wanted to see next. Henrik Verbeck was a self-made man and a tough ticket. He wanted to know why I was going around, probing into Joanne's death, and warned me not to look further into her private life.
If someone murdered her, this guy has to be our number one suspect. He accompanied me to Joanne's apartment, and Barbara was there with her rehearsed harsh words for the insurance investigator whom she believed to be desecrating her sister's memory, as well as holding up payment on two hundred thousand that would be paid to her on the double indemnity policy.
Demonstrated solicitousness with her, and in the presence of Verbeck and the Inspector, offered to buy her a drink. In the café Barbara showed me a letter from her sister in which Joanne expressed great fear.
This note was the main source of Barbara's suspicion of foul play. Joanne had written about holding something of value, and perhaps disclosing information about it that she shouldn't have.
Though she appeared to take the man lightly, Barbara thought we might also consider Joanne's wealthy estranged husband, Chips, as a suspect, so I flew to Ischia, where he was living.
Though a slippery character, I didn't come away thinking he murdered his wife. He'd been in Milan on the morning of Joanne's drowning, he said, to try for a reconciliation, but had gone on to Mont Blanc with his girlfriend when the attempt came to nothing.
Flew back to Milan, still without anything to hand over to a private investigator, and told Barbara that we remained without anything to go on.
Paul confers with the police about the drowning, then is called to see the strong-willed businessman Henrik Verbeck. Crippled for seven years after an explosion in his Algerian factory, he keeps a full-time physiotherapist on the premises, a woman devoted to him.
Verbeck tells Paul in no undertain terms that he doesn't want this insurance investigator prying into Joanne's affairs or sullying her memory.
He accompanies Paul to Joanne's apartment where Barbara is talking with the police inspector, and rails against Paul for his interference. He tries to placate her with the offer of a drink, and at the café, she shows Paul her sister's letter, full of fear about something of value she is holding.
They then fly to Ischia to speak to Joanne's estranged husband who said that he had been trying to get back together with his wife.
Wednesday, August 4
When I tried to see Verbeck in the morning, he was unavailable, having a physiotherapy session on his leg which was injured in an explosion at one of his companies in Algeria. Maybe all that sharpness in his manner is the result of pain.
He came over to Joanne's apartment later, and said that he knew that I didn't work for an insurance company. Admitted as much, but said I was trying to help Barbara, and asked Verbeck if the thing that Joanne was hiding belonged to him.
He freely acknowledged that it was a million dollars in gold certificates - for him in case of emergency, but really for Joanne - because he couldn't marry her.
Barbara and I were both wondering why when he answered the question all too quickly without being asked, and told of the bone marrow disease that is disintegrating his body, bit by bit, always one step ahead of the amputation saw.
As I feel too, he said he didn't want anyone to know, but his program was to change nothing in his daily life as a way of pretending he had all the time in the world.
I tried to imagine what that would be like. The more I hear, from Dr. Mason especially, the more I realize that life and time aren't the only things that are stolen by a terminal illness.
I wanted to reach out and say I understood, but knew that I wasn't at all going through what he was, and even if I were, know how much I would cringe if the same kind of sympathy were extended toward me.
But I said a silent prayer to my constant companion, St. Jude, patron of hopeless causes, that Verbeck might get a reprieve. It was clear that, though he'd never shown it to me, a stranger - and an antagonistic one at that - the loss of Joanne had taken all meaning from his life, and the time left to him was now worthless.
I thought about Kate, then tried to change the subject both in my mind and in the room. Verbeck said that he was inclined to believe that his top financial man, someone he had just found to be corrupt, could be the murderer.
Tried to soothe Barbara over dinner, but now, in addition to grieving for her sister, she was dejected about Verbeck's situation, and spoke at length about the awareness that he was dying, and how awful that must be. On and on.
Though a sweet and well-meaning girl, Barbara isn't the easiest company at the best of times, and her conversation tonight made me want to flee.
There is intrigue going on in the Verbeck empire. His chief financial man had noticed the gradual disappearance of the million dollars Verbeck had given to Joanne, and tricked her into revealing that she had the money.
His fraudulent plot to extract funds from the firm is deduced by Verbeck, and he fires his associate, who threatens to ruin his boss with the damning information he possesses.
Devoted physiotherapist Helga hears this, and says she'll try to help the man, but instead, when she meets him that evening, she kills him - as she did her imagined rival Joanne.
The associate had informed Verbeck that Paul wasn't an insurance investigator, and when confronted, Paul admits this, but asks the businessman about the now missing valuables Joanne was holding for him. He tells of the million in gold certificates, but says that the money doesn't matter, with his love gone and only a few months left to him as a result of the bone marrow disease caused by an injury to his leg seven years earlier.
Thursday, August 5
This morning the man Verbeck believed to be Joanne's murderer - the company's chief financial officer - was found dead on the floor of the Milan office.
But rather than throw the speculation about Joanne's killer wide open again, it seemed suddenly clear that the matter was no longer in question. It could only be Helga, Verbeck's physiotherapist.
Tried a line with her, saying that I had a note proving that Verbeck's dead associate had a meeting with her last night, and promised I'd show it to no one if she gave me half the gold certificates. She brought ambivalence and disinterest to an art form, and sent me on my way, reiterating that she didn't care what I did, because she had done nothing.
It was, of all people, Barbara, who came up with the perfect jealousy trap - and a good thing it was her idea, as she was the bait. Helga knew from Joanne that Barbara is a physiotherapist, and the uncanny resemblance of the two sisters made credible the idea that Verbeck, in his bereavement, could be drawn to this new woman.
He found it far too dangerous for her, but we decided this plan B was our best choice to bring Helga out in the open - and the likelihood was that she would go after me before attacking Barbara.
Verbeck brought Helga to Joanne's apartment, and asked if she would show Barbara the various measures she used in his treatment, as Barbara would be taking over management of Verbeck's care now.
By affectionate gestures and words, he also made it clear that Barbara was more than a physiotherapist to him. Barbara chimed in that she would be able to handle his treatment without taking Helga's time, and he let her leave, apologizing for bringing her over.
It was within a half hour that she rang my hotel for a meeting at the lake to discuss my earlier proposal, and I made sure that the police would be lying in wait before she got there.
Was standing on the dock when she suddenly pulled me in the water from behind. Incredibly strong, I had great difficulty freeing myself from her grip as she attempted to drown me, and was glad to know that capable rescuers were standing by on shore.
Well, more than standing, I was hoping, but despite not having full power in my hands, I did manage to get the best of the murderous Helga, and the gendarmes took her away.
Barbara was also there with a blanket, and Verbeck thanked me for exposing the killer of the woman he loved. I told him that his million in gold certificates was weighed down somewhere in the lake, but he seemed not to care.
He shook my hand and left, and Barbara started up again about the terrible sword that hung over him.
I went back to the hotel to pack, and she suggested that we should invite Verbeck out for a meal. Wondered how that could be borne, but with a few hours to wait for my connecting flight to Rio, I went along anyway.
In the course of the meal, Barbara suggested that, since Helga was gone, Verbeck might want a temporary physiotherapist until he found another, and as she was a free lancer in London, she could stay on and help until he located someone.
The look in his eyes was worth the pain of attending the meal. Like life springing into something inanimate. Even a smile. The first I'd seen from him, and the one on Barbara's face glowing.
Then Verbeck even started talking about dragging the lake for his gold certificates - something he had called pointless only hours before. It was the ideal moment for me to slip away, and go to the airport for my flight to Rome.
6 - 8 August 1965 ("Carnival Ends at Midnight" dream)
When the associate's body is found, Paul suspects the physiotherapist, and challenges her, but the ploy doesn't work.
Appealing instead to the jealousy which caused her to murder Joanne, Verbeck pretends that he and Barbara are having a romance, and she will be taking over his treatment.