After falling asleep in her German hotel suite, Cynthia Allison was roused by cries for help. She sat up and glanced across the room at her friend, Marty Frankel, who was trembling and soaked with sweat.
With international police on his trail, he was feeling the pressures of life as a fugitive. "He was freaked out," she recalls.He had been depressed since fleeing to Europe several months earlier, but he was now having nightmares. Shaking in the darkness of the hotel room in August, Frankel said he was dreaming about people trying to hurt him, she recalls.
"He was so scared, and it was so pathetic to watch," says Allison, who joined him during his life on the lam. "Our lives were hell."
Their long ordeal ended a few days later, on Sept. 4, when German police armed with warrants barged into their hotel room in Hamburg.
In recent interviews Allison talked about the 72 days she spent with the skinny, bespectacled fugitive accused of committing one of the most spectacular frauds this decade.
It was an ordeal that took them to several cities as they sometimes barely escaped the law. At least once, Frankel nearly surrendered, expressing regret that he had "crossed the line" into a life of crime, she says. "He used to say how sorry he was for what he did and how his life had become," she says.
Though she helped shield him from the law, she insists she never took part in his earlier business dealings -- a contention U.S. authorities seem willing to accept.
Still jailed in Hamburg, Frankel is fighting extradition to this country to face fraud and racketeering charges. During his arrest, police found more than $2 million in diamonds and cash in his hotel suite -- a fraction of the $200 million he's accused of fraudulently taking from several insurance companies under his control.
Allison, 35, who once worked for Frankel at his mansion in Connecticut, has not been charged with any crimes. She says she was never privy to the inner workings of his business empire. Recently divorced, she met him through a tele-personal ad in late 1997 and flew from her home in Los Angeles to meet him in Greenwich, Conn.
She says they never forged any romantic ties, but when he offered her a job as a secretary to his insurance empire, she accepted and moved to Greenwich. "It was a good job, and I liked being close to New York," she says.
Two years later, with his finances unraveling and government regulators asking tough questions, Frankel fled his mansion with two female employees. For weeks, no one knew where he was.
"At that point, the only thing in the local paper was a story about how he was missing, and so was a lot of money," she recalls.
Six weeks after fleeing, he was in Rome and called her on her cell phone. He was with the two companions, but they were anxious to return to the United States. "He was so afraid of being alone," she recalls.
Allison recalls confronting him about the allegations swirling around him in the newspapers. "At first, he said it was all exaggerated and that it wasn't true," she says. But after she joined him in Europe and read more about him in the newspapers, she confronted him again. Eventually, he admitted to her that he had gone too far, she says.
"He said how sorry he was for what happened, and that he never intended on taking other people's money. But once he got started, it was too late to stop . . . it was something that just got out of control."
Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service
For nearly three months the two led police on a global manhunt. They began in Rome, traveled through Austria and eventually went to Germany. Most of their time was spent in hotel rooms, watching television, reading newspapers and sleeping in separate beds. "He was a friend, but that's the extent of our relationship," she says.
While on the run, Frankel frequently called his U.S. lawyer, Huge Keefe, and an ex-employee who lived in New York.
Their life in Italy took a turn for the worse when a former business associate told Frankel he could no longer help him hide. That's when he decided to leave Rome. "He just felt we needed to get out," she recalls.
They soon got another scare when a former Frankel associate secretly working with an undercover reporter from England tried to trap them by promising to help them escape to Cyprus.
But Frankel grew suspicious and backed out. Allison and he drove instead to Munich, where they stayed two days, and later to Hamburg. They settled for a suite at a hotel on Lake Alster. They began to feel safer, sometimes venturing to a cafe and bookstore.
"But Marty was really changing by then," she recalls. "He sat one day in a restaurant and kept saying that people were staring at him. He was acting very strange."
He spent hours in his bed, watching re-runs of 'Patch Adams,"' a movie about an idealistic physician who tries to heal cancer patients with laughter.
It was one of the few times that Frankel nearly cried, she recalls. "He got so sad, and just kept asking himself why he couldn't have turned out like that doctor," she says. "He was really getting depressed."
He began to have frequent nightmares, she recalls. "He'd wake me up and would be drip-ping with perspiration. He would hear people calling his name."
One night as they were sitting in the room watching television when two German detectives barged in with guns drawn. "I was really scared," she recalls. "But Marty just sat there very calm."
Frankel "just gave up. He actually seemed relieved, like it was finally over, and he could finally stop hiding."
She denied rumors that she called police. "Absolutely not true," she says. "I don't know how they found us."
They were taken separately to the police station, where she was questioned by German and U.S. authorities for 13 hours. She was then released.
During the last few months, she has been staying with a friend in New York but plans to join her family in Colorado.
She has mixed feelings about the man she accompanied through Europe. "On the one hand, he's a friend, and I care about him," she says. "But on the other, you ask yourself: 'Would a friend put another friend in such a difficult position?' He never told me the whole story when he asked me to join him. It turned out to be a nightmare for him, and a nightmare for me."