Chronology of Events
Saturday, October 23
Arrived in Athens just in time to watch GB qualify at the front of the pack in the Attica Rally, followed by an emotional reunion between Pete and Bumble after 14 years.
Unfortunately, Carlos had a run in with a track official, and was disqualified from navigating.
I was spaced out from the flight, and it was too late to drive the entire course, but we patched a little of this, a little of that together, and I'll be in the navigator's seat tomorrow. Our last race of the European season.
Eileen wanted to rest before dinner, so Pete and I had a long session with a bottle of Scotch in his suite. He is so scrupulous about never asking me anything, but I always figure, that's because he can read me like a book without my divulging a thing. One man I NEVER play poker with!
But this time, he sat me down and asked whether Kate and I were still seeing each other, then admitted that June told him Kate was dating a man named Leo Coleman. Not George?
While the subject of women - those floating around the driving scene as well as the general psychological mystery that most are - is a frequent topic, we don't really speak of either Kate or June.
So I figured that my response line would suffice - that living on the road didn't suit a courtship. Who would understand that better? Outside of June, I've never seen Pete with the same girl twice.
But he just gave me The Look, and out came the whole story about Kate saying that she wanted to opt for a single existence, and how I had come so close to marrying Nicole.
“Serious stuff,” he said, and his grave tone, followed by silence, indicated understanding without prying questions, but brought us down to an even lower point.
Trying to redirect the subject, it seemed the best opportunity yet to quench my curiosity about his relationship with June Bradley.
“Oh, I don't know ….” he replied offhandedly, “I guess I'll marry her.” But then he emphasized she'd only learn of the news when his driving career was over.
Fascinated, I asked him when he'd made the decision, and he answered, about eight years ago, when she was 18, and had followed him to Hong Kong, suddenly a grown-up girl.
We also talked about Sicily, and I told him the whole story of the fright in the cave and the loving villagers. In between all this was race talk and plans for the future.
Pete gave a broad outline of our schedule for winter racing, and brought out a fat folder for me to study later. Not just appealing, but taking us to a higher level, and “by the way,” he announced almost sheepishly, we'd now call ourselves Gaffney Bryan.
“Sometimes it takes me a while to realize you're usually right,” he added. Then, before getting up to change for dinner, Pete said that he never asked questions beginning with “why,” and he never gave advice outside of driving.
So he wouldn't say that I should think about how crazy I was to lose Kate, or that I should do everything to get her back. A whole lot to think about.
And I always wonder how much Pete has deduced about my own situation. Since that first get-together in Bangkok, I've sensed that he saw through to the core of me.
The actress who was his date for dinner spoke only fragmented English, but Eileen's Greek got us through with lots of laughter at the table.
Afterwards I tried to study the maps for tomorrow, but lacked concentration, and figured I'd wake up in the middle of the night from jet lag anyway, so gave up for now, and left the material on the desk.
Paul arrives in Greece for a vacation with Eileen Henderson, and finds that he has the navigator's seat in the Attica Rally the following day.
Sunday, October 24
Expecting me to be tied up with the race all day, Bumble took off in the morning to reconnect with a friend here, but it turned out that I was actually free. At least it wasn't my ineptitude that caused us to crash out in the first half hour of the race, but a Belgian who spun off in front of us.
Pete was fed up, and said he was taking the first plane out of Athens, so I headed for the Parthenon which I hadn't seen since student days. As I was tearing myself away from the place, met an interesting couple who'd also retired early, and spent their time traveling around the world.
They gushed about a fabulous family restaurant, and vaguely invited me to join them. With my stomach somewhere on mid-Atlantic time, and entranced by their descriptions, went along gladly, and ate a genuinely memorable meal.
As we were walking back in the direction of our hotels, a motorbike suddenly tore out of an alley, and would have killed me, had it not been for a passerby who was walking just behind us. He threw me to the ground, and the cyclist drove away at speed.
Burt and Belinda were even more shaken up than I was. For me, it was second crash of the day, and happened too quickly for me to grasp the seriousness of it all. Bert made their apologies and hailed a taxi, Belinda, who'd been standing right by me, in bad shape.
The fellow who saved my life suggested we go for a drink - for his nerves if not mine - and I found out that he was a sales engineer named Brad Capo. He told me he was going skiing tomorrow in the mountains bordering Albania.
Like Belinda's description of the restaurant, he made the place sound like heaven, and I wrote down all the details of the place, saying he might see me there. Can't wait to tell Eileen about my idea for going skiing.
GB Racing crashes, and Paul goes to the Parthenon where he meets a couple who invite him to join them for a meal, after which he is almost killed by a motor bike. He has a drink with the man who saved him, Brad Capo, and learns that his rescuer is going skiing in the Greek Mountains near Albania.
Monday, October 25
When she got back to the hotel, Eileen was bubbling over from her visit, and we really were like Bumble and Polo with one of our crazy teenage campaigns, eager to share the day's adventures.
We went out shopping for some skiing things, and Bumble insisted on buying me a camel hair coat as her thanks for the trip to Greece.
When I think of the crowds and chaos we used to experience when going for a weekend of skiing in Colorado or Idaho, Vasilitsa is truly remarkable. So peaceful and unspoiled. Like Shangri La.
It was a long drive to get here, but worth it. After the car dropped us off, we went for a walk, and when back at the hotel, I inquired if Brad had checked in, and learning that he'd just arrived, called his room to see if he'd join us for a drink to meet Eileen.
We were in a mellow mood, and looked forward to it, but after only one brandy, Eileen said she was feeling the jet lag, and got up to leave, so I did too.
In her room she surprised me with a series of very intense questions about Brad - where did I know him from, how long, and how he had also come to be here - etc.
The happy look was gone from her eyes, which were now full of concern. I reminded her about getting the tip after the motor bike incident, and she said that she hadn't realized it was from someone who would also be here.
When I asked her why she was so worried, she replied, “just a feeling,” but indicated it was not a good one. Reassured her that, if he bothered her for some reason, we didn't have to hang out with Brad, so we left it at that.
Paul and Eileen drive to the ski resort recommended by Brad Capo. Eileen is disconcerted by the man.
Tuesday, October 26
We fulfilled Eileen's first wish in the morning, and enjoyed a sleigh ride, snuggled under massive quilts and rugs, then had lunch in a little taverna.
She's returned to the happy Bumble again, the freedom and thrill of the downhill run magnifying the renewed sparkle in her eyes. The facilities here are few, but just enough.
By the end of the day we were exhausted and decided to have dinner at the hotel. Brad joined us, uninvited, but as far as I was concerned, always welcome, and Eileen remained quiet though pleasant.
Though she enjoys the skiing, Eileen's vacation appears marred by the presence of Brad Capo
Wednesday , October 27
Though he was sitting with other guests when we walked into the dining room for breakfast, I could see that Eileen was more disconcerted than ever by Brad Capo.
We'd planned on a little tobogganing in the morning, and she was even hesitant about that. After only a few runs, Bumble suggested we go back to the hotel, then admitted she was completely spooked by Brad, and really couldn't stay any longer.
I was dazzled. This had seemed like the perfect place to aid her recovery, but it was turning out to have the completely opposite effect. So I made arrangements for us to fly back to California tomorrow, and we had dinner in my room.
Eileen tells Paul that she wants to leave.
Thursday, October 28
Was just paying Eileen's bill when Brad came up. Telling him that Eileen was having a reoccurrence of a chronic illness, I said that we were leaving in an hour.
He seemed greatly distressed, and so sorry that I was missing the skiing, but when I told him I'd come back, a big grin crossed his face.
It was one of the last genuine smiles I'd see for many hours, as the desk clerk then interrupted us, and told me there was a phone call from Athens.
It was the d'Angleterre with a message from Marcella, informing me that Gerald Pierce had had a heart attack while driving, and been killed in the resulting crash.
I asked them to send her the message that I was on my way, and to give my condolences to Kate, Molly and their mother.
Among all the other disappointments, the trip back was haunted by the regret that our time together hadn't produced the late re-blossoming of the love we shared for 16 years of our lives.
Just as they are about to leave the resort, Paul learns that Kate Pierce's father has died. He and Eileen drive to Athens and fly to San Francisco
Friday, October 29
Eileen and I went to the Pierce mansion at 9, and found Alice in an apparently sedated state, and Molly needing to be. She was in hysterical tears the whole time we were there, and practically clawing at me, saying over and over how grateful she was that I'd come.
We then went to Kate's, and the door was answered by the tall blond guy I'd seen her with in the hotel lobby. He went in to her room, and came out, saying that Kate wanted to see me.
Eileen stayed back talking with him, and I entered this room of few memories, never understanding why Kate walked away from the beautiful, palatial apartment she owns, and moved into this ordinary rented place after I left.
Her hair was unattractively pulled back in a bun at the nape of her neck, and she had a large black hat in her hand. When I walked in, she put it down and came towards me.
I was amazed - almost alarmed - at how immune I felt, my prevailing emotion for her being only sympathy and compassion over the bereavement.
Put my arms around her in a fatherly sort of way, but her return embrace had a kind of desperation about it, and she held me close for minutes, then said that she should finish getting ready.
Having expressed my condolences, I turned to go, but she entreated me to stay a moment, and asked me how long I'd be in San Francisco. When I explained I was flying back to Greece tomorrow, she asked me plaintively if I could call her this evening.
How could I say no? She wrote down a number on the back of her business card, and we walked out into the living room.
I introduced the two women, each well knowing of the other's enormous significance in my life, and then Eileen and I went to my hotel.
Headed for the bar, needing a drink, but Eileen said I should stick to coffee, and then suggested that it was probably better that I went to the funeral alone, believing it inappropriate to bring another woman to the funeral of my fiancée's father.
I asked Bumble if she found out who the blond guy was, and she responded with surprise that I didn't know him. He was the husband of Kate's cousin in Florida, guest lecturing at USF for the fall semester.
When I got to the church, there were many people milling around outside, and It suddenly struck me that a lot of the individuals around me would probably be at my own funeral in a matter of months.
It was a chance to say goodbye, and the grave circumstances allowed me to express feelings I couldn't at an ordinary time.
Just as I was going inside with Pete and June, felt a tap on my shoulder, and it was Ben du Pre. In a humble sort of way, as if he wasn't the boss of the firm, but my assistant, wondered if I might be able to come by and see him during the week.
When I responded that I was flying to Greece tomorrow, he asked if I might come by when it was convenient, and said he'd send me the airline tickets.
Miss Smith was waiting for Eileen at the Phoenix airport. Before we kissed goodbye, Bumble took my right hand as she had in Kansas, and looked at my palm seriously. Then nodded and smiled as she placed her index finger across it. “Long life,” she declared confidently.
Bumble had always been “different,” and even when we were children I'd thought of her as some kind of sprite. Suppose I still do, and believing her, I experienced a brief moment of joy.
We promised to try again another time, but after we kissed, for the first time, I saw what Nicole had described as the look of despair in Eileen's eyes. Maybe meaning we might never get that second chance now.
Remembering the comfort of Kate's embrace, I reached out to hold Eileen close, but felt no consolation.
After getting back to San Francisco, rang Phoenix to make sure she was OK, and Bumble said that the trip had been wonderful, apologizing for letting her fears ruin our time together.
Now I must make that call to Kate.
30 October - 6 November 1965 (prequel 2 of "Flight From Tirana" -
Interlude with Kate Pierce)
Paul visits the home of Gerald Pierce's widow and daughter, then goes to see his former fiancee.
He attends the funeral, and then accompanies Eileen back to Phoenix.