The hazardous and dangerous conduct of the Turks kept the women on the edge of their seat. The constant cacophony of car horns was deafening. Rules of the road seemed non-existent, road etiquette also absent, and the motorhome was too wide and long for the alleys and narrow streets of the city.
It was a relationship based on the independence of each but based on cooperation and mutual tolerance.
The next destination was Ankara, 450 kilometers to the southeast. Toddie did a quick calculation and figured that if the roads weren’t too bad, she would go the distance despite her fatigue.
The sun began to set and the traffic calmed down as they drove away from Istanbul. They followed the road along the Sea of Marmara and decided to park at a rest area near Izmit, about half an hour from Istanbul. Both women were exhausted and decided not to continue all night.
Beezie whipped up a quick meal on the stove and Toddie lay down on his bed, badly in need of sleep. They ate a late dinner without much conversation, and then Toddie retired for the night.
While Beezie was washing up, she realized she had seen warnings in one of the tourist brochures about bandits on the outer roads. Travelers have been advised not to stop unnecessarily at night on the side of the road. She pushed the warning to the back of her mind and prepared for bed, pulling back the curtains on the van’s living area before turning off her light.
Shortly after, Toddie sat up straight, reached for Beezie’s bed and grabbed his arm, shaking him and urging him to wake up. Flashes of light streamed through the windows of the RV and raised voices could be heard from all directions outside. The voices grew louder and began to shout. The women figured out that they were flashlights casting strange shadows, criss-crossing the walls and ceiling of the motorhome.
Beezie jumped out of bed and grabbed a knife from the kitchen drawer. The male voices they could hear, they thought, must be speaking in Turkish. The screams were then accompanied by heavy banging on the outside of the van.
Toddie, the more physically imposing of the two women, dressed quickly. She walked to the front of the van towards the driver’s seat. Grasping the edges of the curtains Beezie had drawn earlier, Toddie tossed them aside and placed her hands on her hips to create an impression of fearlessness. Flashlights shone on her and she could see guns raised and aimed directly at the windshield of the RV.
The “bandits” turned out to be Turkish policemen who, on seeing the women, lowered their weapons. The commander waved his men aside and walked over to the driver’s side of the van. Both Toddie and Beezie’s hearts were racing. Toddie rolled down the passenger window and looked directly at the captain. “American tourist, American tourist,” she said, pleading for understanding. “Tourist, tourist.”
None of the soldiers spoke English. The commander approached the window, gesturing with his hands, pointing away and running his index finger from side to side of his neck.
This could not be mistaken for a clear warning that the rest area they were parked in for the night was dangerous and vulnerable to bandit attacks. Another policeman said “bang” in his best cowboy vernacular, pressing his index finger to his temple. Toddie and Beezie no longer needed convincing to move on. With their adrenaline rush and understanding thanks, the women handed out American cigarettes, which were gratefully received by the now smiling policemen. Toddie looked at his watch. It was 10 p.m. Meanwhile, Beezie pored over their cards, trying to decide their next move.
“If only they could see this at home, they wouldn’t believe us.”
Shortly after, Toddie started the van and they were back on the road. They agreed the safest bet would be to keep driving, but didn’t like the idea of returning to Istanbul, so they headed to Ankara.
They drove cautiously through the night to their destination, arriving on the outskirts of town around 3 a.m. “We stopped a taxi and tried to get him to take us to a hotel in Ankara,” Toddie wrote in his diary. “I told him we would pay it as if we were a tariff. Explaining this transaction took almost half an hour, but he finally understood.
Finding a hotel, they parked, checked in, and collapsed into their beds, sleeping soundly for the next day.
12 hours. Meanwhile, Beezie thought, “If only they could see this at home, they wouldn’t believe us.”
While the Drug Grannies had to survive the continuous challenges of overland travel through Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, it was not without being tested by a flood, a power outage that left them stranded in the bengal tiger country, a ferocious attack by armed bandits near Alwar, India, and the mysterious side trip that Vern Todd made for several days in Peshawar while the women were chilling in a government dacha… no one was anymore aware of the true intentions of the nephew.
Eventually forced to fly to Australia to retrieve the motorhome, then threatened by Vern Todd, the two women eventually fell into a well-planned trap set by Australia’s former Federal Narcotics Bureau. They were arrested in Sydney in early 1978 as Beezie
was trying to get home to the United States and Toddie was in the hospital.
Their Australian prison sentence – both in its length and in the lack of a parole date – was unprecedented. In prison, they survived riots, assaults, a stabbing and countless false promises of early release from an unsympathetic federal government that intended to use them as role models for other mules. potential drug companies now pouring into Australia with a variety of illegal substances such as heroin, LSD. and hashish.
This is the inside story the Drug Grannies can finally tell in Betrayed. The book is based on their diaries, letters, court transcripts, and interviews with the young reporter who reported on their fight for justice at the time and ultimately pledged to get them out of jail.
Edited excerpt from Betrayed (Hachette Australia) by Sandi Logan, released on June 1st.
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