The armed bodyguard for the "Ecclesiastical" Head of Scientology David Miscavige walked Grady Ward and me
from the deposition room down to the lobby desk where we picked up our cameras
and then out to our car.
Since Grady's flight was not for a few hours, and by this time it was about
1 pm, we stopped at a deli restaurant to have one last meal at the cult's
expense. I had a really good Reuben. Grady ordered a steak.
We hadn't been there 5 minutes when Tom Hogan (San Jose lawyer for the cult)
showed up to warn us not to post anything about the deposition.
The cult did that for us later, filing in open court records the best part of the
deposition--David Miscavige's often reposted rant about the TR 1.1 club and
being buggered before breakfast. Before Hogan showed, we ignored the
scientology operatives who had been assigned to tail us.
As we were driving away after lunch, we first saw only one tail, two younger
dudes in a late model car. I pulled a couple of U turns and then pulled over to
the curb. Grady is a big heavy set guy who was wearing Bermuda shorts that day. For being a big guy he moves fast. He jumped out and ran back to get a picture. I nearly spilt my
sides laughing as they frantically backed up around a corner to get away from
Grady. Wogs at Cause are
immune to cameras, but cameras cause scientologists, certain scumbag lawyers,
and private investigators to scurry like vampires facing a cross.
After a few go arounds in parking lots, we went south around the edge of the
airport, off to the west, then south into an industrial park. We were playing
loop the loop through the parking lots and around backs of the buildings when
we noticed the second car with only an older guy in it.
He waved us over and identified himself as a private investigator, and told
us that a team had been hired by the scientologists to follow us no matter
where we went, though he would not identify himself further. His license
(his car lacked a front plate) was BAYBUMZ (California).
Decided it would be a good idea to check the story, so we called on our
rented cell phone and got directions for the Palm Springs Police Department. It
was within a few blocks of the airport.
We found the Police Station, went in, and Lieutenant McCabe of the Palm
Springs police came out with us and went over to talk to the older guy who had
stopped across the street from the station.
In a few minutes he was convinced that our tails were indeed PIs. Lt. McCabe
told us that private investigators in California have what amounts to a
"License to Stalk," but that as long as we were reasonably careful
with the traffic laws, we were welcome to ditch them.
This sounded like an interesting challenge to me, but Grady figured we had
about run this episode into the ground, and in any case, he had only an hour
before he needed to check in.
I dropped Grady at the Palm Springs airport about 2:30 pm and considered
"what next" because it seemed to me there was life left in this
I looped out of the airport, followed closely by my tails, drove by the Palm
Springs Police Station and continued on south to Hwy 111, and then southeast
about ten miles to the Embassy Suites--where we had stayed the previous night.
I figured that was one of the few places that would take me seriously about
there being three scientology operatives on my tail, since they knew of the
strange activities of the previous night.
The PIs stayed right with me, one ahead, and one behind. The one behind ran
red lights so they would always have two cars close to mine.
I stopped at three service stations before I found one that would jack up
the car and take a look under it for a locator bug like Steve Fishman reported
on his car some time ago. The owner of the second service station would not
even consider looking under my car because of his stark, shaking fear of
No luck. I was really hoping I could take a locator bug off and get the cult
charged for it, but either it was well hidden or this was an economy tail.
Next to the Embassy Suites is a Lucky's (a giant grocery store) and on the
west side of the parking lot, a row of small shops that back onto the hotel
property. I parked near the hotel side, went into Lucky's, picked up a new
disposable camera and some bottled water.
Tossed the water in the car, unwrapped the camera and ducked behind the row
of shops. Being careful with the camera, I jumped down a two-meter retaining
wall and went straight into the lobby of the hotel.
I told the desk clerk that three scientology operatives were tailing me. The
previous evening's excitement with the cult had been talked about all day so
they insisted on calling the cops. One of the desk clerks offered to get my car
from the lot next door. So I gave him the key, after warning him the operatives
would not be happy.
The desk clerk came back bug eyed with this tale of being accosted by
aggressive operatives who insisted on knowing who he was and what he was doing
with the car. They scared him and he said so to the cops later.
Both of the cops who showed up happened to be women. The first one, with the
Riverside Sheriff's department was only about 5 feet tall, but solid. I
sure wouldn't want to tangle with her. The second, a thin blond woman, was with
the Palm Desert Police. Excellent professional behavior from both of them, in
what must have seemed a thoroughly nutty but potentially deadly situation. Of
course Palm Desert is a rich community, and you expect top grade
I spent most of the time before the first cop showed up and some of it
afterwards talking on a pay phone to the local newspaper and a TV station. Both
reporters I talked to were drooling over the chance to do a local "slow
speed chase" (this being right after OJ was arrested) on camera or with
photographs but it was too near deadline.
Even offered to lead the private investigators through the TV station's
parking lot so they could just poke a camera out a window.
Mentioned to both the cops and the media that I was not thrilled at two
hours on the interstate going back in the direction of LA while being tailed by
scientology operatives--and related the Scarff affidavit where Scarff was told
in scientology lawyer Moxon's office how he should run the president of the
Cult Awareness Network, Cynthia Kisser, off the road and kill her. (Not that I really
expected such of hired PIs. Killing citizens must be cause to lose a license;
but you never can tell--and there is no law that forbids PI licenses to
This went on to about 5:30 pm and it became clear that the media could not
fit the story in. It was also obvious that cops could do nothing. I had hoped
that the local laws in Palm Desert might be a little more restrictive on out of
town PIs or maybe they could informally hang onto these dudes long enough for
me to get a head start on them, but this seems to be beyond the rules.
They don't think shaking the PIs by a high-speed run north of Palm Desert
up to the freeway is a good idea and I have to agree with them.
The cops did locate the three and talk to them because they confirmed again
to me that the three tailing me were PIs, and apparently the PIs told a wild
tale of me being such a dangerous "Wog" that the first cop felt the
need to pat me down.
My car is parked under the portico. As I walk out the lobby door with the
car key in my hand, a very worried cop (the second one) wants to know what I am
going to do. I tell her the truth, "I don't know," and leave.
Now, to understand what happens next, you need a picture of the layout of
the Embassy Suites. It has a relatively narrow frontage on Highway
111 and a very deep lot.
Behind the Embassy Suites is an old palm grove about 300 meters deep and at
that wide. My car is parked under the portico
facing toward the back of the hotel (the lobby is in the middle facing west).
Figured I will drive around the back of the hotel since the car is pointed in
that direction. Since I have a full tank, and the GEO gets excellent mileage,
perhaps I can run them out of gas on the mountain roads I know south and west
of Palm Desert.
When I reach the end of the paved section at the back of the hotel there is no
curb and a faint track where tractors had been in to plow under the weeds and
fallen palm fronds.
Seeing this, I make an instant decision. In a long ago and far away phase of
my life I drove off road for thousands of miles. So, figuring the worst that could
happen would be that I would get stuck, and at best they would get
stuck, I drive out into the sand at all of 15 mph.
Fifty meters out into the palm grove, I realize the grove is surrounded on
three sides by a 3-meter concrete block wall. Hoping for a break in the far
right corner behind some thick trees, I head that way. Alas, there is no
opening anywhere in the back wall. So I veer away plowing through sand
and over fallen palm fronds like a small boat in a choppy sea. If GMC ever
needs a testimonial from a satisfied customer about the handling
characteristics of a GEO in deep sand, I'm their man.
Ah, did the media miss an opportunity. One, two, or three cars throwing up
sand like giant demented blue lizards! I don't know if they followed me. I couldn't
look back for fear of wrapping my lizard around one of the palms. The tape
would be a treasure, especially if one of the PI's cars followed me into the
deep sand and got stuck.
Dodging palms, bucking and rolling and not daring to stop because the car
would get stuck, I make a huge U turn inside the wall through the sand and palm
frond mix. If there was a locator bug stuck under the car it might have been
scraped off. Near the end of the wall (which is perhaps 300 meters back from
Hwy 111, the surface smoothes out. As I go beyond the end of the east wall I
see a cul-de-sac with a sloping curb.
A fishtail turn around the end of the wall and I am back on pavement. There
are some small office buildings ahead. I make a right, a left, go around the
end of one of them and park under a sunshade next to other cars. I jump out and
hide inside a dumpster enclosure where I can watch my car.
I am half expecting them to drive up with a directional antenna--no point in
trying to shake them if there is a locator bug stuck under the car. Memories of
the chase sequence from Eric Frank Russell's classic SF novel "Wasp"
where the protagonist parks in a barn and lets the Secret Police go by are
flashing in my head.
It's hot; I won't be able to stay here long.
Less than 20 seconds go by, crouched down and looking out the crack between
the gates, and the car with the two younger dudes goes blasting through the
parking lot past right in front of me doing at least 70. They pass within 15
feet of my car. It is clearly visible,
palm fronds hanging out behind it, but since it is parked, they ignore it.
After they pass, I peep out over the top of the enclosure. They stop at
Cook, a main road, and 50 meters beyond where I am watching them. I have
vanished! They look wildly around for ten seconds, and then screeching tires
tear off to the north. I don't see the car with the older guy; perhaps he
followed me into the sand and got stuck.
Back to my car, pull out the palm fronds that are stuck around the tail
pipe and follow them north on Cook, turning east at the next major intersection
and then north through a housing development (hard to find, most Palm Desert
housing in that end of town is in gated communities.)
Eventually I come out on a street I can find on my not-very-detailed map,
go further east and north to Interstate 10. The rest is an uneventful drive
back to Ontario (California).
When I go by Hwy 79, the road that leads back to scientology's desert compound, I am
*sorely* tempted to make the side trip and picket them again. But, as much
"at cause" over clams and clam PIs as this wog is, I remind myself
that this is, after all, only a hobby and Real Life calls.