Chronology of Events
Wednesday, September 1
Seeing Johnny was a tonic. He looked great, but seems to be living in a bar. He has a bed on the second floor, but spends his days downstairs.
The story he told . the reason he asked me to come here . was bizarre and horrific. He'd been having an affair with Rosinha Mercedes - who had married that jerk Robbie Fielding . I couldn't possibly get my head around that one . unless it was money.
Johnny said that he'd gotten a note from Rosinha to come to the cottage where they used to meet, and when he arrived, he found Robbie murdered. Certain it was a frame up, he's been on the run ever since, wanted back in Almeria for the crime.
Desperate now to go home, he tried to get in touch with me at the law firm, and now wants me to fly to California and see if I can come up with something to clear his name.
Don't know why everyone seems to see a private eye in me, but for Johnny, I'd do anything, and I am convinced that he could never commit murder.
It was great reminiscing. I told him about Eileen, and he filled me in about some others from our circle of school friends and one or two flying buddies from Korea.
He was fascinated about the racing partnership with Pete, and said, had things developed differently, it might have been just the thing for the two of us.
At the end of a long evening, he offered me a room at the bar, but I checked into a hotel, and tried to catch up on some sleep before the long, long flight tomorrow and tomorrow.
Close friend from childhood, Johnny Deedrick, is wanted by the police in their home town of Almeria after he was seen running from the murder scene of his lover Rosintha's husband. Desperate to return home, Johnny asks Paul to meet him in Laos, and to look into the murder in order to clear his name
en route to San Francisco
Thursday - Friday, September 2 - 3
Johnny didn't make it to the airport, but I was able to get an early morning flight to begin the first leg of a seemingly endless journey across the Pacific.
Spent a lot of time reading the volume I'd bought on Indian history, and slept on and off, and in between, had more - not necessarily wanted - opportunities to think about how I'm living. Or should I more accurately say DRIFTING.
That doesn't bother me so much . It's even what I planned to do . but I'm coming to a state where I'm starting to need purpose in my life. Not the long-range sort everything used to be built on, but something with meaning to fill my days - like helping Johnny.
Phoned ahead to Carl Hague to let him know that I'd be stopping in Hawaii, and he managed to get out to the airport to say hello. It was a bit of serendipity, as he's going back to Australia at the end of the month. Even he had heard about the Jim Clark incident.
Tried to get a hold of Kate at various stops, but either no answer or the call couldn't be put through in time, the operator wanting a day's notice one place.
Mostly, I spent the trip thinking about Johnny, and how close we had been through our youth and young adulthood. Hunting in the woods of Pacific Grove competing with one another at diving and boxing in high school . going off to war together.
So many, many memories. And good times in our adult life when he was in the property business in San Francisco. I hadn't seen him much in the last couple years, but we always stayed in touch.
Paul flies to California to see if he can clear Johnny Diedrich
Saturday, September 4
Finally arrived in San Francisco this morning, and rang Kate, but still no answer, so I rented a car and drove down to Almeria.
Sitting on the porch of the hotel was Sheriff Fowler who spotted me as soon as I walked up the steps. Retired now, but the policeman in him alive with curiosity about my visit. He even mentioned Johnny.
I first paid a call to Aunt Alma , and was shocked at the deterioration in her health. She thanked me for all the cards and presents, but otherwise seemed lethargic.
My next stop was the Fielding home. Robbie's mother is in a wheel chair now, but unchanged from the severe woman I recalled, and amazingly, she remembered me from what must be 15 years since we last met.
Sebastian Corello, who used to work for our neighbors, is now the Fielding butler, and called me Mr. Bryan.
When I'd paid my respects, and was about to leave, Mrs. Fielding said that she appreciated my not praising her son, and for all her motherly feeling for Robbie, I guess she too knew he was a total loss.
The person I really needed to talk to was Rosintha, and I waited for her to leave the house, then followed her. But the meeting was unsuccessful, as she was polite, but stiff.
I guess the damaging of the fine reputation she'd once had . think Eileen had said she was in the Peace Corps or some such help organization . made her want to keep to herself.
She was way behind me in school, but I remember Rosintha from a distance as being a sort of younger, Portuguese version of Eileen.
Drove to Santa Cruz, and rang Johnny with my limited report, just to give him a bit of heart that I was on the job.
After so many unsuccessful attempts to reach Kate, finally got her at home, and said that I hoped we could spend her birthday together tomorrow. But she said that she was just leaving for Houston to value an art collection, and wasn't sure when she'd be back.
Thought she'd give me the number where she'd be staying, but she didn't. When I told her what I was doing, Kate said to call again before I left in case she was back, then that she needed to rush and catch her flight.
Everything she said was perfectly normal. She was sweet, and sounded happy to hear my voice, but . It's probably the limited sleep. I'm making too much of nothing. Maybe I sounded strange to HER!
Put my mind back to Johnny's predicament, and needing to make a breakthrough, returned to the house and told Mrs. Fielding that I was taking Rosintha to dinner. That got me as far as her studio . she's quite an artist, but was closed down as far as offering any information.
However, when I mentioned Johnny, there was a tiny change in her attitude, and I'm hoping that she'll meet me tomorrow.
On Paul's arrival in Almeria, the former sheriff suspects Paul is up to something. After paying his respects to the victim's mother, Paul asks Rosintha to dinner, but she refuses, so he pretends she has accepted his invitation in order to get into the house again. This time she agrees to meet him.
Sunday, September 5
Had a long conversation with the woman who is looking after my aunt. She recommended nursing home care, and that left me very depressed, especially since Alma seemed in such brighter spirits today.
Had a picnic lunch with Rosintha, and she confirmed what I would have expected, that Robbie was one hell of a lousy husband, and the affair with Johnny began after three years of sterile marriage.
I regarded this lost girl . woman and felt genuine sympathy for her. She'd made a mistake, then compounded it, and now found herself a psychological prisoner of Mrs. Fielding, guilt ridden that she caused the woman's stroke that had placed her in the wheel chair.
The item that seemed to be some kind of clue was her declaration that, though he didn't seem to want her for himself, Robbie was insanely jealous of any male Rosintha had the most informal contact with.
After the lunch I was summoned to the office of Tony Oliviera, now the local DA. On a Sunday, no less. I'd have thought he'd be away for the Labor Day weekend. No family?
Whatever edge there had been between us in our youth - competition for debating honors, scholarships, being named class valedictorian, and even in the sports of diving, gymnastics and archery, it was alive and well 20 years on.
Tony did surprise me by saying that Rosintha had regularly deposited money in a savings account for a year, then withdrew the entire hefty sum on the day of her husband's murder. She never told me anything about that, the Sweet Rosintha!
On leaving I proved that I hadn't completely grown out of a sandbox mentality, and asked Tony if, after Rosintha had dumped him - not quite what she said, only that they had dated - he had ever married.
Took Rosintha to dinner, and questioned her about the money, but she said that Robbie had asked her to bank it, then requested the entire sum the day he was killed.
She swore she didn't give it to Johnny, and I believed that. If he'd left with any money, he'd gambled it away, because Johnny had nothing in Laos, and I gave him $2,000 to hang in.
The next thing Rosintha told me was a little hard to take. She said that after seeing each other for a year, she had told Johnny she'd get a divorce so they could get married and he replied that he not only didn't want to marry her, he didn't even love her.
I know Johnny so well, and this woman hardly at all. It was difficult to believe that he could conduct a relationship on that dishonest of a level.
I wanted to see Rosintha again, as much to offer her a little companionship as to help Johnny. Though she once more declined, I kept thinking about what she had said - and felt hurt for her, and wondering about the man who has always remained nearly my closest friend.
Rosintha tells Paul of her loveless marriage to a jealous man, and how the affair with Johnny came about. Paul is sympathetic, as she now appears to be enslaved to her mother-in-law. After their picnic Paul is called in to see the District Attorney who tells him that Rosintha regularly deposited money in a savings account, then withdrew the entire amount on the day of her husband's murder. At dinner that evening Rosintha says her husband had asked her to bank the funds, and she gave the money to him.
Monday, September 6
Talked with Debbie Wilson, and made arrangements, should the need arise, for Aunt Alma to be moved to a nursing home. Her carer, Mrs. Robbins, knows to contact Marcella who will organize details and finances.
Today, Alma spoke a lot about my mother, and the household they set up after my father's death - as if it had been recently. She obviously misses Tom very much. Their luck in finding one another late in life was a blessing.
Despite the fact - or rather, because - Rosintha said she'd be out in the morning, I then went to the Fielding house, and made a pest of myself with Mother Fielding, to the point where she told me to leave.
But I refused . Ah sure, I really would have made a great politician with all that chutzpah . and insisted on waiting in Rosintha's studio. Immediately went to her typewriter, and wrote out the words of the note Johnny had given me, supposedly from Rosintha, telling him to meet her at the cottage on the day of the murder.
They were definitely written on the same machine, and I was just comparing them when Rosintha walked in. Quizzed her up about the notes, and admitted that I'd seen Johnny in Laos.
I was beginning to come up with a theory, and told her I'd be back, but didn't get far, as someone had tampered with my brakes, and I know for certain, that if I hadn't started racing cars, and learned to handle difficult moments, I'd have gone straight into a giant oak.
Jim Clark's isn't the only life I saved on the road this month. Ironically, it happened on the very road where Pete gave me my first driving lessons when I was 16.
Went back to the house to tell them what happened, and Mrs. Fielding made some caustic remark about my accusing her of getting out of her wheelchair and carrying out the crime, but it was obvious that it had been done while I was there with Rosintha.
Got her to drive me out to the place where Robbie's body was found, and we were in the house only moments when shots were fired at us through the window.
My instinct was to run after the assailant . how crazy in hindsight . but I actually managed to stop him, using my flash light as a missile.
Rosintha had run behind me, and her piercing scream, as much as my own eyes, revealed that the man who had been firing at us was a very-much-alive Robbie Fielding.
Rang Johnny immediately to tell him that he was in the clear, and he was jubilant. I said the people of Almeria would feel very bad about what happened to him, and would welcome him back warmly, but Johnny, so desperate a couple days ago to come home, said that he was going to Tokyo instead of returning to California.
Knowing Rosintha will be out, Paul goes to Rosintha's home, and is virtually thrown out by her mother-in-law. He then goes to her painting studio and tries out her typewriter to compare a note Johnny had received to meet Rosintha at the scene of the murder. Though written on the identical machine, she says that she didn't send it.
Paul has an idea and leaves, but his brakes have been tampered with, and he would have been killed, were it not for his driving skills. He goes back to the house accusingly, and gets Rosintha to take him to the murder location, the cottage where she and Johnny used to meet.
Someone shoots at them through the window, and Paul races out after the assailant. It is the supposedly dead husband.
Almeria - en route to France
Tuesday - Wednesday, September 7 - 8
I am sitting here on a flight to France, trying to make sense of, and pull together 48 hours of my life that seem to come out of a horror movie. Keep telling myself that everything is fine, or must be, since I'm sipping champagne and about to be served boeuf bourguignon by a friendly air hostess.
On Tuesday I learned from Tony that everything had been part of a detailed plan Robbie had been working on a long time to get back at Rosintha and Johnny.
Arranging the bank deposits and sudden withdrawl for cash to live on as well as incrimimate the pair. He had kept his eye out for a tramp his own size, then shot him in the face after offering the man his own clothes.
Mrs. Fielding had learned early on that Robbie was alive, but still tormented poor Rosintha with her false compassion and finger pointing.
Rosintha was so brainwashed that she wanted to go to her husband and mother-in-law to support them, but I insisted on taking her to her sister in San Francisco, and walking away from the despicable Fieldings. As it was, Maria Mercedes drove down herself to pick Rosintha up.
So I decided to go to the lake where my family used to spend the summer. After a brief chat with a lady who was closing down the house she rented out for the season, I moved on, but when I returned from looking at our old cottage, there was something that bothered me, and I decided to have a look around.
Next moment I was jumped by a bunch of hoodlums who had bound and gagged the mother and daughter, and quickly did the same to me. From their tattooed hides to their paraphernalia and names, they were a walking endorsement of the Nazis. A weird deja vu after the run in with a Hitler advocate in the Himalaya.
When I found out the gang had just killed a man - an assault for money that went wrong, I knew that there was nothing that would stop them from killing us - and they probably would.
The whole scene became complicated when the gang went searching for getaway clothes in the attic, and produced clippings that tore into the personal lives of the mother and daughter, a girl who'd always believed she was adopted, but now found out that Mrs. Southworth really was her mother, born from a liason with the owner of the house we were in.
I couldn't tell whether all this was neutral, or would make things better or worse for us. That was really all that mattered.
The next happening was one which appeared to be an imminent death sentence for us. A state trooper had come searching for the gang, and when he started for the house, they shot him dead.
The girl in the gang, Velma, was now in deeper than she dreamed possible, and didn't seem to like it. Things were reaching breaking point for us, so I singled her out as the weakest link in the group - and also the one who probably had the most compassion - if that's a word that could possibly be applied to her.
She was just smart enough to consider saving her own skin as the bottom line, and when the guys, knowing they had to get out fast, went upstairs to shave off their beards, I told Velma that the gas chamber was awaiting them all now, but the three of us would put in a good word for her if she untied us. She would get away completely free.
Velma was loyal to the gang, that was clear, but the fact that she was wavering was something I had to jump on, so I firmly ORDERED her to untie us. And she did.
We pretended to still be bound, and I called the leader to come downstairs. Using a ruse of offering him money for his getaway, I took his moment of hesitation to jump him, break his arm with a karate chop, and get a hold of his rifle.
When the others came down, I made them drop the second one. Mrs. Southwood recovered it, and her daughter went out to get help. The area was crawling with police, and the gang were taken away in virtually minutes.
Had remained cool throughout - as I remember it at least - constantly calculating what to do next, but within an hour of being freed, was shaking like a leaf.
After giving my statement, I was checked over by a doctor. He handed me a box of tablets to last a few days, and told me to first take the sedative he also provided and lie down as soon as possible.
What I did do was to start on the tablets, get a taxi back to San Francisco, just managing to catch this flight to Paris. Now for that sedative.
9 - 13 September 1965 (Racing on the Riviera / "Who's Che Guevara" )
The District Attorney finds out that the husband had planned the crime to punish his wife and her lover for a year. When he found a tramp of his own size and hair coloring, he dressed the man in his clothes and shot him in the face, got the money his wife had been banking, and sent a note signed with Rosintha's name for Johnny to go to their secret place where he found the body.
Paul makes sure that Rosintha will be all right, and goes to the lake where his parents had a summer cottage.
When he passes the house of a woman he had spoken to earlier, he is suspicious.
The mother and daughter have been taken captive by a Nazi-ornamented biker gang who are being hunted by police after killing a man when trying to hit him up for $5.
Worried that Paul will get out word where they are, they jump him and tie him up with the others. The three hostages remain under siege, almost certain that they will be killed too - since they will be able to identify gang members.
The terror is heightened when a trooper approaches the house, and is immediately shot dead.
Paul tries all kinds of psychology unsuccessfully, but after the murder of the policeman, he manages to convince the one girl in the gang that untying them is the only thing that will keep her from going to the gas chamber with the others.
In a quick move, Paul is then able to overcome the leader, and get his gun, then points it at the others to end the kidnapping.