Tanner's Tiger Page 10

“You have teeth like a serpent.”

“I trust I did no damage.”

“The teeth of a cobra-”

Emile went to him. “The skin is not broken, Claude? No? Then, you will live.” To me he said, “Let me look at you, Evan. Ah, it is really yourself, is it not? I long to embrace you, and yet-”

“I could use a bath and clean clothes.”

“Indeed you could. But it is good to see you nevertheless. How did you find us? How did you know to reach us in the first place? We must have developed security leaks of which I am unaware.”

“The address-”

“Oh, of course you know of this foul place.” He sighed. “But that you should appear at such a crucial moment, that is remarkable. We had heard you attempted to enter Canada and were refused. Then we heard of your illegal entry, and there were rumors the police had captured you-”

“I escaped.”

“We had heard that as well, but one is never certain what is to be believed. But it does not matter now, does it? All that is important is that you are here.” He lowered his voice. “At a most opportune moment, my old friend. We can make good use of you.”

A major propaganda campaign, I thought. A rally, a demonstration. Or perhaps a more dramatic effort. Last time it had been mailboxes; I wondered what would be this month’s target.

Emile stepped back and turned to the rest of the group. “This is Claude,” he said, pointing to the skeleton. “It is he whom you maimed with your serpent’s teeth, but I am sure he will find it in himself to forgive you and that you will not hold it against him for treating you so roughly. In the dark we did not know who you might be, Evan. A police spy – that was the immediate suspicion. They have been very hard on us ever since the Expo first opened.”

“I can imagine.”

“And do you know any of the others? This is Pierre Martin, I am sure you know his articles, yes? And Jacques Berton, and beside him his brother Jean. And Lucie Gerard, and Carole Phideaux, and Louis…”

Emile, his face deeply lined and his hair already white, was the group’s senior member. He was not so old as he looked, about forty-five, perhaps. The others were all considerably younger, most of them in their twenties. They were all quite conservatively dressed. The men wore ties and jackets except for Claude, who had on a turtleneck sweater. The two girls, Lucie and Carole, were clean and neat and rather plain. The third girl was not.

“And this,” Emile said, looking at her now, “this is our Jeanne d’Arc, half Angel of Mercy, half Angel of Death. Arlette Sazerac.”

If the other girls looked like clerks in Paris shops, Arlette looked like a goddess from the slums of Marseilles. She wore black denim slacks that hugged her slim hips and a green velour top that was drawn out into two appealing points in front. Her face was of the gamin sort, her hair a very dark brown, cropped boyishly short in a ragged soup-bowl cut. A tigerskin beret was perched atop her little head. Green berets make one think of Vietnam. Tigerskin berets make one think of tigers, but Arlette would have had this effect whatever she wore.

“And this,” Emile said, pointing to me, “as you know, is our good comrade from the mighty nation to the south. Just as Lafayette assisted the good General Washington in overthrowing British tyranny three hundred years ago, so shall our friend Evan Tanner help us to cast aside the same yoke of oppression. He is a friend of France and a friend of Quebec and a very good friend of us all.”

“Emile, the police-”

“You are safe with us,” he hurried on. “The police do not bother us, much as they try. You will remain with us, you will be hidden by us, and when the hour comes, you will strike with us!”

I thought of Minna. They would have to help me find her, but now was not the time to broach the subject. According to Emile’s script, I had come to Montreal to help him. That wasn’t quite the way I looked at it, but I could let it slide for the time being.

“Comrade Evan will be at our side,” he went on. “Within a week we shall play our part. Within a week the symbol of English despotism will have the temerity to pay us a visit. Within a week, the very personification of our oppression makes her appearance. She will come to celebrate one hundred years of Canadian ‘independence.’ But it is we who will celebrate – celebrate the beginning of the end of three centuries of slavery!”

“Wait,” I said. “You mean the Queen-”

“The noble lady herself,” Emile said. “Liz, Betty, Betsy, Bess – so many versions the English have for a single name!” His bright eyes danced. “She will sail down the St. Laurent upon a barge, making her ceremonial visit to the fair. And before she reaches her destination, the Mouvement National de Québec shall kidnap her, with Quebecois autonomy as the price of her ransom!”

I guess I gaped. Off to the side a voice said, “Bah!”

I turned. It was Claude. “I have said before and I say again,” he snapped, “to kidnap is a game for children. We have had enough of games.”


“To kidnap is foolishness. We have dynamite, we have plastique. Her barge shall sail down the Saint Lawrence like a garbage scow, and we will blow the English bitch to hell!”

A rumble went through the room. I looked at Emile, who looked first at Claude and then at me. Then his face relaxed into a smile.

“As you can see, Evan, we have yet some disagreements on strategy. But they will solve themselves. They are not important now.” He placed his leathery hands upon my unkempt shoulders. “You are here, Evan. You are with us. What else matters?”

Chapter 7

The tub in which I sat was nearly as deep as it was long. It had claw feet, and I felt that it would come to life if I could only utter the proper incantation. I scrubbed myself diligently with an oval cake of sandalwood soap. A trifle effeminate, perhaps, but anything was preferable to essence of wino.

Arlette’s voice filtered through the oak door. “There is ample hot water, Evan?”


“I have put your clothing in the incinerator. I could not abide them in the apartment. You are not angry with me?”

“Not at all. Uh… the shoes-”

“I did not burn your shoes.”


“There is clothing in the closet for when you have finished your bath. I will purchase the newspapers for you now. You wish copies of all of them, no?”

“If you please.”



“The English ones as well?”


“It saddens me to purchase the English newspapers. Would not the French suffice?”

“I’m afraid not. I have to find out as much as I can, Arlette.”

“The French papers are excellent.”

“I know that.”

“They probably contain all the news that is to be found in the others.”

“Even so-”

Her sigh was barely audible through the door. “Very well,” she said. “I shall do as you ask. Au revoir.”

“Au revoir.”

I soaped and washed and soaked, over and over, and I might well have spent eternity in that bathtub, but I wanted to be out and dressed when Arlette returned. I got out, drained the tub, and wrapped up in a large blue towel.

Arlette’s apartment, just a few blocks from Emile’s conspiratorial cellar, consisted of a large room with a skylight, a kitchen, and the bathroom I had just vacated. The furniture may have been Arlette’s or her landlord’s, but I suspect that the previous owner was the Salvation Army. The sole note of elegance, and one which contrasted sharply with the pervading Poverty Program flavor, was a tigerskin throw which covered the bed. It wasn’t fake anything. It wasn’t even real dynel. It seemed to be genuine tigerskin, a perfect match for her beret.

The air was thick with the pungent scent of Gauloise cigarette smoke. I found clean shorts and socks laid out for me on the bed. In the closet there was a variety of male attire, much of it in my size. I found a maroon shirt and a pair of dark gray gabardine slacks. I donned all of these things and was lacing up a shoe when Arlette returned, her arms overflowing with newspapers.

“All of them,” she said triumphantly. “The English as well.”

“Thank you.”

“I behaved poorly before. You must understand, the authorities make use of the circulation figures for the English newspapers. Businessmen must buy them for certain of the business news, and so by presenting circulation figures, the authorities may suggest that the English minority in Montreal is more literate than the French. One does not care to play into their hands, so one avoids buying English papers.”

“I understand.”

“But what difference can these few copies make? This is what I tell myself as I buy them, eh? But you look so much better in clean clothes, Evan. Such a disgrace to have seen you for the first time dressed and perfumed as you were.” She came closer, sniffing. “You smell delightful now. You have used some of my perfume?”

“It was the soap.”

“But certainly.” She lit a cigarette. “I shall make coffee. Will you be comfortable in that chair? I do not think the light is good. Why do you not make yourself more comfortable upon the bed?”

I stretched out on the bed with the stack of newspapers. I checked through all of them, and for all the good they did me, she needn’t have bought the English ones. Or the French ones either, for that matter. They had all gone to bed before my little adventure with Prince Hal, so the only coverage of me dealt with my earlier attempted crossing and my successful illegal entry at Fort Erie. Several of the papers went into some detail on that point. The consensus seemed to be that I had broken into the home of one Jerzy Pryzeshweski, a Buffalo bakery salesman. (No two papers spelled the bastard’s name the same way.) I forced him at gun-point to take us across the Canadian border. Then, in Fort Erie, I left his truck after striking him on the head with the gun butt and slashing his tire to discourage pursuit.

Evidently a cop had happened on Jerry while he was changing a tire, and the clod had panicked instantly and then made up a cover story to protect himself. But it certainly hadn’t done me a world of good.

The papers didn’t provide the most important thing of all – a lead to Minna’s whereabouts. It had occurred to me earlier that some Canadian cop might have snatched her at the fair, thinking that her disappearance might cause me to come out into the open. If that was what had happened, I would hear about it soon; now that they had her, and now that they no longer had me, they would have to use her as bait.

“Coffee, Evan.”

The coffee was strong, with chicory added for extra taste, along with a generous slug of cognac for authority. I sat up and sipped it, and Arlette crawled onto the bed beside me, tucked her legs under herself. She drank coffee and smoked another Gauloise. I rather liked the smell of it, but I couldn’t understand how anyone could manage to smoke it.

She asked if the papers had been helpful. I said that they had, which was not entirely true, and that we might find more information in the morning papers or on the radio. There was a radio beside the bed. She switched it on and we got the tail end of a Beatles record. Penny Lane , I think it was. She said there would be news on the hour. It was then a quarter after ten.

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