When a great artist is unjustly imprisoned, Emma Watson decides to take action...
Milky Way Chalet, Gstaad, Switzerland
January 22, 2010
Roman Polanski reclined in an armchair, his lined face thrown into sharp relief by the light of the floor lamp, his fingers absentmindedly turning the pages of the book he had been reading in an attempt to take his mind off of things. The attempt had been unsuccessful as usual, and the old director now sat staring into the darkness beyond the window, the darkness in which he knew black-uniformed guards prowled around the house like wolves. Yes, that was what they were; he saw the feral gleam in their eyes every time he came in contact with them. Those eyes told him that only the fear of repercussions kept them from putting a bullet through his skull. Nazis, he thought in cold anger. They may no longer wear swastikas, or worship Hitler, or care much about racial theories, but their hatred of freedom was as strong as ever. They were the reason he was here, a prisoner in his own home, caged like an animal for a crime that was not a crime at all – the girl had been asking for it and had since publicly forgiven him, although not before he had paid her a hefty amount of money. He knew it didn’t matter to them. This wasn’t about justice, this was about asserting their power. As if to drive the point home, an ankle monitor was strapped to his leg. Its very name was a cruel joke: the purpose of the device was not to monitor him – the guards took care of that – but to torture and humiliate him. He couldn’t take it off without legal consequences and was to wear it constantly, like a slave collar. He hated the thing as if it were a malicious living being.
His musings were interrupted by the sound of footsteps. Turning his head, he saw the dark outline of a man filing the doorway. The man stepped forward, and Polanski recognized Corporal Boger, who was in charge of the other guards. Boger was tall and strongly built, with closely cropped hair. He looked quite intimidating in his black uniform, his right hand resting casually on the MP5 SMG he wore on a strap slung around his neck.
“Boger,” said the old man with contempt. “What are you doing here?”
“Making sure you are not up to anything, old pervert,” replied Boger, his face splitting into a mocking grin. Polanski’s hand tightened on the book in anger.
“Well, I’m not, so get the hell out of here!”
“I think I’ll stay for a while longer,” said the corporal, the grin never leaving his face.
“This is outrageous!” said Polanski. “I’ll report this to your superiors!”
Boger merely chuckled, his thumb stroking the MP5 as he eyed Polanski insolently. The old man knew that the guard was provoking him and fought down his anger. As bad as it was here, prison was worse, and it was only one wrong move away. Polanski was not going to make that move. He deliberately slowed his breathing and glared defiantly at Boger without saying another word. It is hard to say how long their staring contest would have lasted, but Polanski saw movement in the dimly lit hallway behind Boger, and his anger was replaced by surprise and confusion as he saw a slender shape – female, as far as he could tell – advancing on the unsuspecting guard. Like Polanski’s nemesis, the intruder was dressed in black, her face concealed by something like a ninja hood. Night vision goggles jutted from her forehead like horns – obviously, she preferred to rely on normal vision inside the house – and she was aiming a gun directly at Boger.
Polanski’s surprise must have shown on his face, because Boger sidestepped and spun around at the same moment the girl fired her gun. Instead of a deafening bang there was only a pop, followed by a faint phut as something struck the wall opposite the door. The attacker was apparently using a dart gun, which couldn’t be said about Boger, who had already brought up his MP5 and was firing. Miraculously, the girl dodged the first round, but there was no way she was going to dodge the second one. Without thinking, Polanski rose and hurled the book he had been holding at Boger. It struck him in the back of the head, and the guard staggered, the second shot missing its mark. He whipped around with a snarl, pointing the gun at Polanski, who ducked instinctively, so that the next round ruined a painting instead of his neck. Meanwhile, the girl had tossed her dart gun aside and was running up the hallway. She jumped, grabbing the lintel and pulling herself up, and kicked out with both feet just as the guard turned back to her, hitting him squarely in the face. Boger reeled from the blow, the girl landing in front of him. In one fluid motion, she drew a black baton from a holster on her belt, brought it up and jammed it into Boger’s chest. There was a crackling sound, and Boger collapsed, releasing the MP5. He twitched briefly and then was still. The whole thing had taken less than six seconds.
“Are you all right?” the girl asked Polanski, who was slowly getting to his feet, his gaze switching between her and Boger’s limp form on the floor. Apart from her hood, she wore hiking boots, black jeans, gloves, and a zip-up leather jacket cinched with a utility belt. Her voice sounded faintly familiar.
“I think so,” said the old man. “But who are you, and what’s going on here?”
“I’m here to get you out,” she said, holstering the stun baton. “Let’s go, we don’t have much time.”
A lesser man would have hesitated, or started asking more questions, but Roman Polanski possessed an instinct for freedom that few other people could boast. It was that instinct that had delivered him from the hell of the Krakow ghetto, it was that instinct that had snatched him from the jaws of the duplicitous American judicial system, and it was that instinict that now told him that he had to trust the girl. So all he said was, “Lead the way.”
The girl seemed momentarily taken aback, as if she had expected resistance on his part, but then nodded and strode back toward the door. Polanski followed her, giving Boger a quick kick in the ribs as he passed him. The girl picked up her dart gun on the way out, and the old man paused at the front door to put on winter boots and grab a jacket (he had been wearing jeans and a flannel shirt). The cold air felt extremely refreshing as he stepped out into the night. The girl lowered her night vision goggles and looked around.
“Seems clear for now, but we must hurry,” she said, setting off at a trot. “Someone will have heard the shots.”
Even without night vision goggles Polanski was able to make out the body of another guard lying in the snow a few feet ahead. He hurried after his rescuer.
“Is he — ? Are they — ?” he asked as he caught up with her.
“Not dead,” she said quickly. “I used the tranquilizer gun and the stun baton. I’m not a killer.”
They ran down the narrow winding street. The lights were on in some houses, but the street itself was thankfully deserted, the director’s neighbours either not having recognized the shots for what they were, or (more likely) simply being cautious. Polanski felt more alive and alert than he had in years as he sped down the street alongside the girl with the ease of a much younger man, his senses heightened by danger. He peered sideways at his companion, appraising her. She was slightly taller than him and quite shapely, from what he could see. Also very young, judging by her voice. The old man’s heart beat even faster at the thought.
They reached a nondescript car parked at the end of the street, and the girl indicated that he should get it. No sooner had he done that, the girl slipping into the driver’s seat beside him, than he heard police sirens in the distance. The sound made him remember something.
“My ankle monitor!” he said. “As soon as we leave the area, it’ll raise an alarm! They’ll know where we are!”
“Time to get rid of it, then,” answered the girl and handed him a knife. He cut through the plastic band encircling his ankle, lowered the window and threw the thing out as the car started to move. The relief he felt was so great that he cheered, punching the air. The girl glanced at him, and even though he couldn’t see her face, he could tell she was smiling. They got out onto the highway and sped north.
“May I ask where we are going?” inquired Polanski. “Now that I’ve cut off that damn thing, they know I’m on the run, and I’m afraid we won’t get very far.”
“We don’t need to,” said the girl. “We’re going to the airport. A private jet will take us to Paris. In fact, I was about to call the pilot.”
She retrieved a cell phone from the glove compartment and dialed a number.
“Patrick?” she said as her call was answered. “We’ll be there in about three minutes. Are you ready for takeoff?” She listened to Patrick’s reply and nodded. “Good. See you soon.”
“Who are you?” Polanski asked incredulously as she put the phone back. The girl was about to reply when the unmistakeable lights of a police car flashed ahead of them, accompanied by the wail of a siren.
“Crap,” muttered the girl. “Where did they come from?”
“The opposite direction, I would say,” quipped Polanski, earning a surprised look from her. “They may not realize it’s us,” he added.
“Let’s hope so,” she replied.
They passed the police car and were about to let out sighs of relief when it made a sharp U-turn and started following them. The girl reacted by speeding up.
“Do we have a plan B?” Polanski asked nervously, looking over his shoulder. Being unexpectedly arrested had been bad enough, but being snatched back after nearly escaping would be agonizing. He really didn’t want that to happen.
“I think so,” said the girl after a couple of seconds. She took her left hand off the steering wheel and rolled down the window, then unclipped what looked like a grenade from her utility belt.
“Don’t look back,” she cautioned. Taking her other hand off the wheel, she pulled the pin and tossed the grenade out the window. A loud bang came from behind them a couple of seconds later, accompanied by a dazzling flash of light. Polanski heard the screeching of tires, and, looking back, he saw the police car careening off the road onto the snowy plane to their left.
“Stun grenade,” the girl explained, somewhat sheepishly. “The flash will have blinded them for a few seconds. I never thought I’d have to use it this way, but it should buy us enough time.”
“It was brilliant!” said the old man.
“We’ll see,” she replied, but he could tell she was pleased. “Not far now…”
They entered Saanen, a tiny town to the northwest of the somewhat larger Gstaad, on the outskirts of which stood Polanski’s chalet. After a couple of turns they finally found themselves on the road that led to the “airport” – it was actually little more than a landing strip, which was convenient, because it meant less control. Polanski’s excitement grew with each passing second as the small terminal ahead of them drew ever closer. Freedom was almost within reach…
The sound of police sirens came again, not only from behind them, but also from ahead, and he spotted the hated blue-and-red lights flashing in the distance.
“More of them?!” said the girl. “Just how badly do they want to deny you your freedom?”
“You have no idea,” muttered the old man.
“Don’t worry, we’re almost there,” she said. Indeed, ten seconds later she slowed down and executed a sharp turn, speeding past the terminal straight onto the landing strip, where a small jet was waiting. A man ran out of the low terminal building shouting something, but the girl paid him no heed. She drove around the jet and killed the engine.
“Let’s go,” she said. Polanski didn’t need to be told and was already getting out, his instinct for freedom driving him on. They ran toward the small aircraft, one of the pilots waiting for them in the doorway. The man stepped aside to let them in as they bounded up the ramp, pulling it up and sealing the door as soon as they were in.
“Are we good to go?” the girl asked him.
“Yes, ma’am,” he answered. “Go strap yourselves in.”
He stepped into the cockpit to join his co-pilot, and the girl and Polanski flopped into seats facing each other and buckled the safety belts. The jet began to move, gaining speed with every second. Polanski was feverish with anticipation. So very close now…
“Ma’am?” one of the pilots called. “We may have a problem!”
“Now what?” snapped the girl. Unbuckling her belt, she headed toward the cockpit, and Polanski followed suit. He quickly saw what the problem was: a police car was speeding toward the landing strip across the snow, clearly intent on blocking their way. It seemed that the enemies of freedom would not be outdone so easily.
“Keep moving,” said the girl.
“But – “
“Keep moving!” she shouted, her voice quavering for a second. “This is what I paid you for!”
The pilots exchanged glances, and the first one said, “All right. You’d better take your seats.”
They did as they were told. Polanski looked at the girl and saw the same fear in her brown eyes that he knew she saw in his. He looked away. The sound of police sirens reached his ears, growing louder with each agonizing second. The sound of my doom, Polanski thought grimly. The girl craned her neck (her seat faced the cockpit), and Polanski twisted in his seat to look around. The infernal red-and-blue lights were flashing directly ahead, and they were very, very close. The old man’s fingers dug into the armrest as he braced himself for the inevitable impact…
The lights disappeared from view, and the pilots cheered. Polanski saw the police car in the porthole a couple of seconds later as the airplane sped past it. The cops had cut it too close, leaving themselves no time to flee from the car to a safe distance, and, freedom-hating as they were, they were not suicidal. With the last hurdle cleared, the jet quickly covered the rest of the runway, and then they were in the air. Polanski leaned back and took a deep breath, savoring the air of freedom. At last. He pictured Corporal Boger, bleeding, bruised, and disoriented, coming to his senses only to realize that his charge had escaped, and laughed out loud.
The girl pulled off her gloves and tossed them into the seat across the aisle. Her night vision goggles followed, and then her hood. Her light brown hair cascaded onto her shoulders as she removed the clamp that had held it back, framing a face that was as lovely as it was familiar. Polanski blinked, as if to make sure he wasn’t dreaming. The girl laughed as he gaped at her.
“Emma…Watson?” he asked slowly.
“I see you recognize me,” she said, arching an eybrow playfully.
“Well, of course I do! Who wouldn’t? But…but how…I mean, you must have spent so much money…hell, you risked your life for me!”
“Well, to be honest, I hadn’t thought it would come to that,” said Emma, looking a little sheepish. “But if I’d known, I would have done it anyway,” she added.
“But…why?” he asked, disbelief and confusion written all over his face.
“Well,” she said, running her hand through her hair, “I’ve always been a fan of your work, and when I heard about your arrest in September, I was shocked. I mean, that was so out of the blue. I knew you’d been involved in some kind of scandal many years before, but I’d had no idea it was still relevant. So I started reading up on the case to find out what it all was about, and in the process I learned everything about you. How you survived the Nazi occupation, how your mother died at Auschwitz, how your wife was murdered, how you were forced to flee the United States because of those false accusations, and how you have endured and continued making great movies in spite of all that.” She leaned toward him, as far as the safety belt allowed, and he mirrored her movement without being aware of it, her eyes exerting a magnetic pull on him. “I felt such…admiration for you, and…well, you really became a role model to me. And I felt so angry at the people who had dredged up that stupid affair and imprisoned you, after everything you had suffered — ”
“You don’t believe I was guilty, then?” Polanski asked hopefully.
“Well, of course not! The whole idea is completely ludicrous. I mean, why would someone like you even need to rape somebody? Any girl would be happy to be with a great man like you. That thirteen-year-old bimbo probably did everything she could to get you in bed, then accused you of rape because she didn’t want to face the responsibility. Isn’t that how it happened?”
“Uh, yes,” he replied. “Exactly.”
“Well, there you are,” she beamed. “Anyway, this got me thinking…Well, a lot of people signed a petition for your release, but frankly, I didn’t believe that would do much good, and time has shown that I was right. You know, I’ve always wanted to make the world a better place. I’ve donated money to charities and stuff, and I got into fashion, because fashion is an art form, and art can change the world. I became involved with People Tree not long before your arrest, which is a Fair Trade fashion brand – maybe you’ve heard of it — they produce organic clothing, and I thought it was a great way to improve the world and to make people more aware…but it felt insufficient, somehow. I felt I could – should – be doing more, but I didn’t know just what I was supposed to be doing. Your arrest changed that. Here was a great man, a great artist, incarcerated for no reason, and all everyone did was complain.” She became increasingly impassioned as she spoke, and Polanski was mesmerized by the fire in her eyes. “I decided that I would do more than that. I’m not exactly religious, but I believe that everything happens for a reason. My wealth had been given to me for a reason, and now I knew what it was. I would use it to correct a great injustice, to free the man I admired, and to hell with what people would think of me as a result! I started preparing myself in secret, taking courses in martial arts, marksmanship and infiltration. I found out everything I could about the jail where you were being kept, and it seemed hopeless, but I kept looking for a way to break you out. And then you were moved to the chalet, and that made my job much easier. So…that’s my story,” she finished with a self-conscious smile.
“Well…” Polanski said after a few seconds, shaking his head. “I don’t even know what to say, Miss Watson. I don’t know how to express how touched, or how grateful I am. You gave me back the thing I value most in life – my freedom – when all hope seemed lost. I don’t know how I could ever repay you for that, but if you ever need anything – anything at all – if it is in my power, I will do it.”
Emma unbuckled her seatbelt and rose, and the next thing Polanski knew, she was sitting in his lap, her hand caressing his cheek.
“After we land,” she said quietly, her face very close to his, “we’ll drive to a discreet house in Paris…where I want us to spend the night together.”
Polanski felt as though an electric current were surging through him.
“I have a family, Miss Watson,” he heard himself say, sounding unconvincing even to himself.
“I know,” she whispered. “But you’ve also suffered through a terrible ordeal and deserve a chance to unwind…and I deserve what I desire. Didn’t you just say you would do anything for me, Roman?” She arched an eyebrow playfully again, and Polanski found himself unable to speak. Her face moved even closer to his.
“I’m still a virgin,” she breathed in his ear. “I’ve been saving myself for the right man…and now I have found him.”
Roman Polanski had never believed in God. Certainly, he had reasoned, a benevolent God couldn’t exist in a universe where your mother was taken to a death camp, your pregnant wife was butchered, and you had to become a fugitive and be branded a criminal for the rest of your life for something that was not your fault. But as his lips touched Emma Watson’s, his hands cupping her firm buttocks, he thought he might reconsider his opinion.