NOT ALL CRASHES ARE ACCIDENTS by Peter Nolan Smith


I never met Princess Diana, although a friend of a friend married her brother. Diana would have been at the wedding. I never received an invitation. No great loss, because the Princess of Wales wasn’t my type, however I viewed her death as a blow against the empire of goodness.

I arrived in London the day of her funeral. I exited from the Tube at Nottinghill Gate. People on the street walked with sorrowful steps in the direction of her Kensington Palace. Two grown men passed me in tears, as if their mother had passed away and women sobbed like they had lost their best friend. I walked to Sam Royalle’s house. He was not at home. Everyone in London was observing the passage of someone whom they hoped would be queen.

Sam Royalle showed up at 5. His eyes were red.

“Are you okay?”

“I feel what you must have felt when JFK got killed.”

“That bad?”

“Yes, that bad. Let’s have a drink

That evening Sam and I along with thousands of the Princess’ admirers laid a wreath before Kensington Palace. The wall of memorial flowers rose chest-high. The scent of dying petals buried my senses and my eyes teared with the loss. Sam was a bawling baby. We walked away with our arms over each other’s shoulder

Diana had been a real princess.

The next day I left London to go on a road trip through the Loire Valley with my father. Ten days later Sam Royalle showed up in Paris. We had dinner at La Coupole with father. After putting him to bed at the Hotel Lousiane Sam and I sat at a bar across the street.

“I got a problem.” The Londoner whispered across the table. He spoke out of the corner of his mouth, so only I could hear him. My survival antennae perked into life. Only the guilty talked in that manner and

“What?” It’s usually better to not know what someone’s problem is so you don’t ever have to get involved, but Sam and I were friends.

“Some Brixton yardies suspect me of switching a bank destination for a money wire transfer,” Sam explained how the yardies had an auntie working at the transfer accounts in a Scottish bank. He had arranged for another swift code for them from an off-shore account. “The money never showed up.”

“And where is the money?” There were only three choices; with the yardies, Sam, or a 3rd unnamed party.

“I don’t know.”

It was the right answer and Sam expressed his apprehensions about returning to London in order to discuss the matter with the Brixton yardies. They were habitual murderers. He ordered us another round of drinks.

“On me.”

“In that case make it a margharita with good tequila.”

The waiter took our order and I suggested to Sam that he take a long vacation in Thailand.

“The food is good, the girls are friendly, and I’ve never seen a Brixton yardie in years that I’ve been traveling in Asia. Plus it’s hard to get extradited from there.”

“I didn’t do anything wrong.”

“Oh, I forgot about that.” I said nothing about his arranging a different destination for the wire transfer. Our drinks came to the table. We drank them swiftly. Another two rounds and I mentioned that Diana had stayed at the Ritz only two weeks before.

“That’s where she left from for that fateful drive.”

“Is it far?”

“No.”

Sam looked around the bar, as if to see Diana’s ghost.

“Something about that accident isn’t right.” I felt like Oliver Stone filming JFK. The French police had blamed the crash on the driver. “Henri-Paul had been drinking and maybe doing drugs, but I’ve driven in that condition on more than one occasion and survived without a crash.”

“Twice the speed limit.”

“65 mph is not fast for an expert driver.”

“The newspapers said 90.”

“English newspapers love sensation. I’m surprised that they didn’t publish any naked photos of her corpse at the Quai de La Rapee.” I had been to the Paris morgue to ID a friend. It wasn’t a cheerful place.

“Stop joking.” The English were loyal subjects to their nobility.

“I’m not joking and I can prove it.”

“How?”

“By driving my rented car through the same street at the same speed.” I had drank enough margharitas for this evening.
“I’ll re-create the accident.”

“Fuck you.”

“Someone killed her.”

The whys were too numerous to count unlike the four margharitas that I had downed in the last hour, but the Londoner was true to his word. He covered the bill and tried to talk me out of my test.

“Tomorrow morning would be better.”

“No way. This test needs the right conditions. Nighttime, Drinks. Speed. Tomorrow morning the quai will be jammed with traffic.” I also had to drive my father to the airport in the morning.

We walked outside to my Fiat Panda. I put the key in the ignition and peeled from the curb to snake through the small streets of the Left Bank. I crossed the Seine at the Louvre and sped down Rue Du Rivoli to whip into the chaotic merry-go-round of Place de la Concorde and 90kph.

I needed to go faster.

Diana’s Mercedes had paparazzi on her tail. A score of them were on motorcycles. with strobe lights on their tail, Jodi must have told the driver. “Plus vite.”

Diana laughs. Jodi joins her.

I hit 110 and skittered onto the Quai like a billiard ball sliced with extreme English.

I don’t hear Sam’s shouting.

The entrance to the death tunnel loomed ahead. I reach it at 120 and go airborne.

The Fiat bottoms out on the road with a slight swerve, but I controlled the car.

“See I told you the accident was no accident.”

“It was a heavier car.”

“It was no accident.” I slowed down coming out of the the Place de l’Alma underpass.

Two more cars did the same. The look on their faces told us that they had just attempted the same re-enactment. Not everyone was convinced that Diana’s death was an accident. I dropped Sam at his hotel. He checked the street for Brixton yardies. The coast was clear.

“See you in the morning.”

“Thanks for the ride. It’s always good to have a near-death experience before bed.”

“Don’t mention it.”

We arrange to meet in the morning after I drove my father to the airport. I parked the Panda on the street of the Hotel Louisiane. I went up to our room. My father raised his head from his pillow.

“You smell like you’ve been drinking.” My father was no tee-totaler, but he didn’t like drunks, especially those related to him.

“Just a few glasses of wine.” I fell into bed wearing my clothes.

“Smells more like a vat. I hope you didn’t do anything stupid.”

“Nothing more than talking with a friend.”

“Then good-night and see you in the morning.”

I crashed without any further thought about Diana Princess of Wales.

Same and I traveled to the South. He booked a flight from Paris to Thailand. I went off to Ireland.

A town called Ballyconeeley.

Three months later the paparazzi released the last photos of Diana. She was a queen then and a queen now. I would never be as good as her. I could only try to follow her example. It was all of us could do.

I took several minutes to study the prints in The Times, while eating my breakfast at the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin. The driver’s face was aglow with excitement. I was convinced that he had been drugged like Teddy Kennedy at Chappaquiddick.

By whom?

I have my suspects.

They know who they are too.

That crash was no accident and I’ll prove it again if anyone wants to buy the drinks.

They are expensive in Paris.

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