Capture The Saint
Capture The Saint By Best Selling Author Burl Barer
The first all new Saint novel approved by the Estate of Leslie Charteris, finds the famous Simon Templar encountering beautiful women and dangerous criminals in the Emerald City of Seattle, Washington.
How Simon Templar Spoke of Skiffs, and Salvadore Alisdare Became
“Why are you still alive, Mr Templar?”
Simon Templar, alias the Saint, was only momentarily taken aback by the one unrehearsed question posed by perky television talk-show host Connie Cain during the live afternoon broadcast of “Coffee with Connie,” Seattle, Washington’s most popular local program.
“Mythological characters such as myself seldom age at the going rate,” responded the Saint cheerfully. “And if survival is the topic,” offered Simon, “I have been shot at, shackled, handcuffed, gassed, and interviewed by trained broadcast journalists — the relative degree of danger inherent in each being open to debate.”
The small studio audience laughed warmly and applauded with approval as the mildly bemused and professionally coiffed hostess signalled for a commercial break.
“You are very good at this, Mr Templar. Do you do a lot of television?” Her question seemed curiously genuine in contrast to the alternately sanguine and saccharine couching of her on-air delivery.
“I find precious little on television worth watching,” stated Simon with disarming honesty. “But this is more fun than being either shackled or gassed, although I was once grilled for information under lights almost as intense as these.”
“Did you talk?”
“Not a word,” confided the Saint in hushed tones of mock severity. “Of course, the unsavory individual asking the questions was sadly bereft of your charm, grace, and intrinsic allure.” Simon may have been overdoing the charm, but the studio audience enjoyed the banter.
“When we come back from the commerical,” Ms Cain did her best to avoid a slight blush, “we’ll talk about the movie.”
The movie to which she referred was about to have its auspicious Seattle premier, and while the career of Simon Templar was once as well known as any celluloid adventure concocted for any contemporary hero, it was not a fictionalized version of the Saint’s life that had received the Hollywood treatment.
The simple truth is that Barney Malone, semi-retired Hollywood producer and established acquaintance of the Saint, spent a year on his knees and several hours in a bar convincing Simon Templar to sell him the movie rights to „The Pirate‟, the Saint’s singular excursion into the world of adventure fiction. Written decades earlier and now creaking with age and
bending under the weight of unintentional anachronisms, the novel was at best a derivative pot-boiler distinguished only by the romantic escapades of its Hispanic hero.
The initial sales of „The Pirate‟ had been more than respectable, an adjective never utilized in the descriptive prose published by the world’s press when documenting the extra-legal activities of its youthful author who, at the time of its original publication, was earning his international reputation as the Robin Hood of Modern Crime.
The fact that a tag-team of screenwriters had rendered the plot and characters of Templar’s original story unrecognizable did not surprise him.
“I lost faith in films about the time of The Falcon,” admitted the Saint to Malone in only half jest. “I have far more faith in the stability of the dollar and the morality of Monarchs.”
The dollars Simon Templar was earning from Malone’s cinematic adaptation were more than enough to prompt the Saint to sit under the hot lights of a television studio, banter with entertainment page pundits, and spend a few pleasant days traveling the West Coast at Malone’s expense to promote the film’s debut.
To those who follow the career of Simon Templar, it may seem tragic that the exploits of the Twentieth Century’s Brightest Buccaneer would be relegated to the entertainment pages rather than dominating the headlines. The Saint was perfectly pleased to be absent from the latest Seattle headlines — a front page story detailing the death by gunfire of a weasel-like miscreant who most often utilized the moniker Salvadore Alisdare. Simon
Templar, the affable and entertaining talk-show guest was the exceptionally singular twist in the story; the one missing piece neither police nor reporters were ever able to place.
Simon Templar was not the last man to see Alisdare alive. That doubtful honor was reserved for the individual who, meeting him in a Madison street alley during morning’s wee hours, punctuated the climax of their distasteful conversation by puncturing Alisdare’s lungs with several slugs from a .38 revolver. The Saint saw both men prior to their eventful convergence, knew the outcome of their meeting long before reporters detailed the events in print, and was not the least surprised to read of Alisdare’s death nor the subsequent arrest of the cold blooded killer.
Although he encouraged the first’s demise and arranged the second’s arrest, the Saint’s primary intention was a unique and memorable birthday surprise for Barney Malone.
As the historic pleasure craft “Thea Foss” passed under Lake Washington’s Evergreen Point Bridge uniting Seattle with the Eastside suburban communities of Bellevue and Kirkland, Barney Malone raised a small green bottle of Perrier above his sunburned, balding head. “To „The Pirate‟, ” Malone offered as a proud if not predictable toast.
“To Thea Foss,” countered Simon holding aloft his Peter Dawson. “And her memorable motto, `Always Ready’.”
“What was she, a Boy Scout?”. Malone’s dark eyes darted about as if anticipating a vaudeville audience’s response from the nearby seagulls.
“The Scout motto is `Be Prepared’,” Simon corrected cheerfully. “A subtle difference and subtlety was never your strong point.”
Malone, bedecked in blue Dockers and matching windbreaker, sat back in the yellow canvas deck chair and studied the bronzed features of his long time acquaintance.
“OK, Simon. I know you’re up to something. What’s the story.”
“Let’s begin back in 1889.” The Saint leaned back comfortably and tilted his head to catch more of the sun on his already tanned face. “Dear old Thea Foss was living on a houseboat in Tacoma when a neighbor sold her his skiff for five bucks.”
“Wow. I am really enthralled now,” Barney faked a yawn. “When does someone get shot? If someone doesn’t get shot it won’t make a movie.” “Hollywood has rotted your brain,” observed the Saint as if he had
only that moment discovered the obvious. “Next you will be telling me about past-life lovers and the ancient ascended masters.”
“The only ascended masters I know are DeMille, Hitchcock, and the guy who made King Kong,” countered Malone proudly, “And if I had past lives worth remembering, they would have been on the Late Show by now, and colorized.”
“Thea Foss has been on the Late Show, except she was called `Tug
Boat Annie’.” Simon waited for the anticipated reaction.
He didn’t have to wait long.
“Tugboat Annie!” Malone was instantly animated.
Sitting bolt upright with a suddenness that almost upended his deck- chair, Malone’s voice increased in volume by several decibels. “Marie Dressler, Wallace Berry…wait, don’t tell me the director…”
The mere mention of old movies activated a hidden circuit in the mind of Barney Malone. His otherwise adult and cynical nature defered to a markedly more youthful demeanor, exulting in the ability to recall with near total precision the cast and credits of innumerable Hollywood films.
The Saint confidently awaited Malone’s accurate remembrance. “Mervyn LeRoy. 1933. Starring Robert Young and Maureen O’Sullivan
as the obligatory young lovers,” rattled off Malone in staccato bursts of cinema savvy. “Am I right or am I right?”
“Absolutely accurate and correct,” confirmed Templar, “Tugboat Annie and Thea Foss are one and the same. From humble beginnings…” Simon gestured to Barney for the appropriate conclusion.
“To one of the largest tugboat companies in the world.” Simon Templar swirled the ice in his half-empty glass. “Foss Tugs roam the world, Barney. The boats have evolved from Thea’s first five dollar rowboat to the husky deep-draft ocean tugs that are familiar sights in nearly every ocean.”
“So?” Malone looked at Simon, awaiting the kicker.
“So,” replied the mecurial Mr Templar, “you are sitting on a true treasure.”
“Treasure?” Malone closed one eye, peering at the Saint as if through a spy glass. “Did Thea Foss stash some cash on board?” Malone, still squinting, attempted appearing Picaresque.
“Thea Foss never saw this exact craft in her entire life,” sighed the Saint. “Dear old Thea passed away in 1927. The Foss Maritime Company bought this ship in 1950 from a group of geological scientists working off the
coast of California.”
Malone pulled an ugly cigar out of his pocket and stuffed it into the side of his mouth.
“Don’t say it, Templar,” warned Barney. “I’ll stop smoking when you stop drinking. Besides, if this was one of Charteris’ old Saint stories, you’d have smoked half a pack by the time we got to that line about Tugboat Annie.”
“Well,” the Saint slowly tilted his head away from the unlit but potentially offensive cylinder of tobacco. “if you want to know more about the treasure…”
Malone removed the cigar.
“Allow me to acquaint you with the vessel’s characteristics,” continued the Saint lightly, “her length is 12 feet with a twenty-one foot six inch beam, eight foot draft and displacement of three hundred tons. She has twin Atlas Diesel engines, horsepower of 550 b.h.p, cruising speed of 10 knots, officers and crew total five, and ten people may sleep overnight, but not with any degree of privacy nor intimacy.’
“So tell me,” interrupted Malone, “when does…”
“Someone get shot? They already did. Don’t you read the papers? It was a tragic story of back alley execution, low life crime, and high-stakes extortion. It will make a delightful motion picture,” insisted the Saint, “suitable for the entire family, provided the entire family is over forty, armed, and dangerous.”
“People over forty don’t go to movies,” scowled Malone as if confessing a tragic secret, “they rent videos of old movies.”
The Saint ignored Malone’s depressing digression into the realities of showbusiness, and banged his foot on the ship’s deck much as men kick the tires of used cars.
“It’s built of 3/8 inch rolled steel, same as a World War II battleship.
In those days she had anti-aircraft guns on her foredeck and carried a dozen depth charges on her fantail.”
“So did a dancer on La Cienega Boulevard I knew back in the ’40s,” deadpanned Barney. “Sorry, Simon, but I simply can’t enthuse about old warships. Now, you want to talk about actors, that’s a different matter. Warships? They mean nothing to me. And if by treasure you mean that this ship won a medal for having big guns bolted on deck,” Barney was building volume in mock bombast, slipping into his best Lionel Barrymore impersonation, “then the famous Simon Templar had better park his Hirondel at Cars of the Stars because I fear the man has become too senile to drive.”
“Senile is what Julius Caesar said to Cleopatra”, countered the Saint. “Do you do any other members of the Barrymore family, or are you a one trick impressionist?”
Barney rose to the challenge. Standing erect and windswept on deck, he turned sideways to Simon and gazed resolutely to the horizon.
Short and slightly lumpy, Barney Malone did not cut a romantic figure. The Saint gave this silent impression serious consideration before offering his opinion.
“Ethel Barrymore, sister of Lionel and John”, decided the Saint.
Barney allowed his flabby chin to hit his chest.
“True, true, all too true”, Malone faked a slight sob. “John was `The Great Profile’, I however, resemble Ethel. You could have been sporting enough to say `John Barrymore’ just to flatter me on my birthday.”
The Saint found Malone vastly amusing. Perhaps it was Barney’s unique ability to combine considerable business savvy with an unpretentious, almost childlike appreciation for the joys of his avocation.
“Flattery is not an appropriate gift for a man of your distinction and achievements, Mr Malone,” beamed the Saint. “You deserve something far more tangible. “Say, several thousand dollars in cash and a King salmon buffet.”
Malone plopped back into the deck chair, eyed his cigar, and ran one stubby hand through his almost invisible hair.
“I wouldn’t take the money if it passed through your hands, Saint.” Barney’s eyes paid tribute to Eddie Cantor. “Lord knows what vile creature had it before you. I earn my money the old fashioned way – making movies for middle income twelve to twenty four year olds with enough cash to pay the inflated ticket prices at the multiplex. King salmon buffet, however, is perfectly acceptable.”
Invited to the upper deck by an officious white jacketed crewman, the two men enjoyed an obligatory Seattle latte while culinary experts in the galley began preparation of the aforementioned buffet.
After a few thoughtful sips of exceptional espresso, Simon called
Malone’s attention to a grouping of condominiums on the lake’s West side. “See that area over there? It’s called Madison Park.”
Barney nodded. He was not familiar with Madison Park, but he knew the general geographic area to which Simon referred. It was one of Seattle’s older, smaller, and more relaxed lake-bordering neighborhoods.
“Something very interesting happened in that lovely location late last night. I robbed a man who didn’t exist of over $50,000.”
There was no snappy come-back from Barney Malone. A relative silence punctuated by gull cries and augmented by the low rumble of Atlas Diesels informally requested clarification of Templar’s cryptic comment.
Malone locked eyes with the Saint, slowly pulled a silver Zippo from the right hand pocket of his windbreaker and proceeded to light the cigar. “If you didn’t shoot him,” Barney puffed, “it won’t make a movie.”
“Movies, movies, movies, ” moaned the Saint. “And you were once a man of letters.”
“Newspapers can’t make you dance,” Malone countered. “With movies, I dance all the way to the bank. Now, tell me the story before I shoot you — no, wait, let me guess. It all starts with a small knot of struggling men.”
“Then it must begin at a cocktail party where you are approached by a beautiful woman who wants you to kill the husband, remove her rival, or invest in a new line of lipstick.”
“Not this time.”
“Templar, let me give you a piece of advice. Always begin with your hero in mortal danger, then make it get worse as the plot unfolds.”
“If you would let me unfold it, you might enjoy it.”
Malone, having irritated the Saint to the point acceptable in their relationship, leaned back and drew deeply on his cigar. For Barney Malone, this was the all clear signal.
The Saint’s story began with neither struggling men nor beautiful women, but with an ice sculpture. While Simon Templar had seen his share of slowly melting swans, frozen busts of famous patriots, and even a lovingly rendered representation of two moose locking antlers, he had never encountered a five foot high block of ice which left him so chilled.
The sculpture, elevated by a stainless steel pedestal and back-lit by neon, shimmered in amplified translucence and tasteless overstatement. Serving as an unsubtle centerpiece for a mutated form of cocktail party known as a media reception, it dominated the room and overshadowed the buffet.
Simon Templar had seen so many astounding and unexpected items in his adventurous career that to say he was agog, stunned, or speechless would stretch the credulity of any enlightened follower of these chronicles. But the honest and accurate report must document that Simon Templar’s eyes, while not bugging cartoon-like from their sockets, widened by a perceptible degree while his jaw’s resolute ratchet mechanism involuntarily slipped several noticeable notches.
Representational of the human form in intent, yet minimalist in expression, the wet work of frozen art featured straight line limbs and body.
Above its balloon-like head was a rakishly tilted electrically illumined halo blinking in irritating synchronization to music blaring from overhead speakers.
“Nothing exceeds like excess,” quoted the Saint under his breath. His logo was everywhere, on everything, dancing around the room on posters and placards placed strategically throughout the suite, as were one-sheet and three-sheet theater lobby posters for “Simon Templar’s The Pirate, Starring Emilio Hernandez. Screenplay by K.K. Beck. Directed by Karl Krogstad. Produced by B. Malone.”
Simon’s gaze shifted from the slowly dripping icon and the myriad match-stick logos to the event’s more animated participants. Connie Cain, recovering from her afternoon encounter with our endearingly dangerous central character, talked shop and sampled scampi with her co-anchors, weathermen, and assorted representatives of Seattle’s electronic media. A reporter from the Seattle Times and a columnist from the Eastside Journal discussed surrealism and screenwriting with Karl Krogstad and K.K. Beck as caterers served fresh lobster fra diavolo.
The invitations summoning luminaries from Seattle’s press, politics, and civic organizations to the Westin Hotel to meet The Pirate’s lead performer, director, producer, screen writer, and the famous Simon Templar, were also embossed with the Saint’s stick-man logo. A small encircled “R” by the figure’s left heel indicated the distinctive drawing was a legally registered trademark. The Saint found this contemporary addition to his crude artistic creation both amusing and disquieting. When he first hastily chalked the haloed figure on the doors of vice-traders, murderers, and blackmailers, he had no idea of its eventual commercial value.
Simon slid his souvenir copy of the invitation into his inside jacket pocket as journalists and individuals of distinguished social standing abandoned the crab and oysters to surround him for handshakes and introductions. As was his obligation, Simon Templar smiled broadly and entered the party with buoyant, honest enthusiasm.
As the social pleasantries passed, the predictable questions answered, the practiced one-liners delivered, and the guests shuffled off to the adjacent suite to meet the handsome and eligible Emilio Hernandez, the Saint noticed a short, moderately attractive, no-nonsense woman in conservative business attire holding back from the posse. Her eyes seldom left him. As the crowd thinned, she approached the Saint.
Holding her invitation as a calling card, she tapped the Saint’s rakish trade-mark with the well-manicured nail of her right index finger and cast an amused glance at the Saintly glacier.
“I remember the night you drew one of these for me on a torn scrap of paper,” she said coyly, offering Simon her hand.
“It must have been a night to remember,” said the Saint as if he remembered the night, the woman, and the significant particulars. His mind raced to place her face with an event.
“I am not surprised that you don’t recognize me, Mr Templar. It was long ago. Perhaps this will refresh your memory: You said `Give this to your Daddy and tell him The Saint brought you home’.”
The Saint’s memory was immediately refreshed. He remembered the night, the woman, and the highly publicized body count. He even recalled the first time he heard her name uttered by the impersonal metallic voice from a police car radio in New York’s Central Park:
“Calling all cars. Viola Inselheim, age six, kidnapped from home in
The Saint’s ability to relive each moment of that long ago night on New York’s Long Island had not dimmed through the veil of years. He could still hear her shrill cry of terror, see spitting flames of gunfire, feel his own shouts of `run!’ tearing through his throat as he spurred the child’s flight from captivity.
Released from vivid reverie, Simon realized he was still gripping the adult hand of little Viola Inselheim.
“Your fist was tiny then,” remarked the Saint softly, looking at her hand as if surprised it was not miniature and dimpled. “And the last time I saw you, you were wearing a white frock.” Simon paused. “And your father?”
“My father never wore a white frock, Mr Templar.”
They both laughed, releasing tension born of time, trauma, and little or no true familiarity.
Relaxed, she resumed.
“I still have the note, and the newspaper clippings. My father…” the intonation indicated that Zeke Inselheim was no longer living. “…saved it all. I pulled it out and looked at it when I knew I was going to see you again.”
Simon gestured towards a fresh gaggle of noshing and nibbling professional communicators devouring the remnants of Seattle’s finest
seafood in his honor.
“I still hold a certain attraction for the press” commented the Saint in self-deprecation. He was attempting, by diversion and without success, to move the conversation to the next plateau.
“Saint Rescues Viola! Saint Battles Kidnappers!” quoted Viola, “The headlines were at least two and a half inches high in big bold black letters.”
Simon Templar felt oddly uncomfortable. Not with Viola, but with himself. He had rescued the child in a spectacular display of reckless bravado, but her rescue was secondary to his primary motive: killing her criminal captor, Morrie Ualino. The Saint accomplished both, admired the coverage of his escapades in the subsequent newspaper publications, and allowed little Viola Inselheim to become the one tender footnote to an otherwise violent and treacherous evening.
“I am now Vi Berkman, my husband is assistant Rabbi at the Reform Temple. We have lived here for a few years.” Viola took a deep breath, stretching her next word as if it were physically malleable. “And…”
The Saint recognized the intonation of “and” as the intonation preceding detonation. The Rabbi’s wife was no femme fatale, but despite her unquestioned integrity Simon knew there was something explosive coming, and he could feel it all the way up his spine.
Viola Inselheim Berkman turned her attention to the latest brigade of broadcasters and bigwigs abandoning the scampi to sample the Simon Templar, and smiled the smile of radiant acquiescence. The Saint sensed from her very bearing that she had become a woman of strength, dedication,
purpose, and consummate courtesy.
” Time for you to play celebrity. We’ll talk later. Then maybe make some Big Bangs.”
The Saint sensed a sizzling fuse.
“Big Bangs, Mr Templar. Big Bangs.”
With finger food appetizers and spoon fed quotes, the trained professional broadcasters and local luminaries were not left hungry. Some of them – most notably Connie Cain – did not leave alone. She and Emilio Hernandez retreated to the dashing star’s personal suite where, during a more animated moment of interaction, she misplaced half a set of false eyelashes.
When the ice sculpture watered down and the contemporary soundtrack music no longer strained the sensitive components of the Westin’s sound system, Simon Templar and Viola Inselheim Berkman shared coffee at a quiet corner table.
After surface discussions of the Saint’s earlier completed Seattle itinerary – lunch at Leif Erikson Lodge in historic Ballard with Olav Lunde followed by preparation for his live television appearance – Simon and Viola exchanged observations on the differences between New York and Seattle life styles. When the small talk was depleted, Viola commented lightly on the pleasure of renewing their acquaintance, then asked an unexpected question.
“Do you still rescue children in danger, Mr. Templar?”
She intentionally released him from any attempt at formulating a response by immediately beginning her next sentence.
“No man does what you did for me unless he loves children, treasures them, and is willing to risk his life for them. And don’t be modest, Saint. I know. And even if my memory didn’t tell me, I can read it in those old clippings.”
Simon could sense a sales pitch a mile away, but he could also discern the purity of her motive.
“If this is leading up to me buying Girl Scout cookies, I’ll gladly take a case,” offered the Saint.
“I want you to take a case, but it is not cookies.” She looked at him with an intimate directness to which she was unquestionably entitled, as if searching his ice-blue eyes for signs of the same man who cradled her under his arm that night long ago when the Saint’s game was neither media nor movies, but death and justice.
Simon Templar leaned forward, taking both her hands in his. “You are not six years old anymore, and I am certainly not thirty-one. You are a grown woman and I’m…”
“…The Saint,” asserted Viola, reciting a memorized newspaper account, “an astonishing combination of heroism and terrorism, the most mysterious figure…”
“Spare me,” Simon laughed, “I was always easy copy for adjective addicted reporters”
“Those descriptions weren‟t farfetched,” she said with a slight hint of humour, “All the superlatives were well earned. I know. I was there. And
what I want to know is…”
“Will I pull out a hidden knife or noisy automatic and rub out a bad guy just like in the movies?”
“No, Mr Templar. Not like in the movies, like in New York. But this time there is only one man to kill, and many children to rescue.”
She wasn’t kidding.
Praise for Capture The Saint
"Fast, Funny and blissfully faithful."
Dick Lochte, Los Angeles Times
Praise for Capture The Saint
Praise for Capture The Saint
"Barer brings back the Saint in all his glory."
Lee Goldberg, author of the Monk books
Praise for Capture The Saint
"Burl Barer hits every note just right. From the narrative description to the dialogue to the interplay between characters, I cannot help but think Leslie Charteris himself would point to this with pride."