Tanner's Tiger Page 13

I got rather wrapped up in it.

Well, why not? It was an idiotic game, but it was also, as the gentleman said, the only game in town. If we were going to abduct the Queen of England, the least I could do was make sure the operation went off as well as it possibly could. If nothing else, I could try to ensure her being kidnaped instead of abducted. And I might be able to have her released safely.

And, when you came right down to it, wasn’t there a certain appeal, a certain unmistakable beauty, in the notion of kidnaping Britannia’s gentle sovereign? I could have a few words with her, no doubt. Not merely about Quebec but of other things as well. Like her abdicating in favor of Prince Rupert, for example. Or her restoring the six northern counties to the Republic of Ireland. Or-

Emile was absolutely correct. It was no time to think. It was a time to plan.

When Emile and the Berton Boys left, I made a fresh pot of coffee and rummaged through Arlette’s refrigerator and cupboards. Evidently the girl had solved the problem of what to do with leftovers; she chucked them out. I eventually gave up trying to find something already prepared and began improvising a pilaff of rice and onion and raisins. Arlette didn’t have many of the right sort of spices on hand – the dish could have done with a bit of coriander – but in cookery, as in secret agentry, one must work with the materials at hand. I ate well and drank more coffee and listened to the radio. The bright, clear, early morning gave way to deadly hot midday. I sat around perspiring, bathed, dressed, and began perspiring some more.

Then Arlette came back with color in her cheeks and a glint in her eye and a spring to her step. A few hours of simple inertia had taken more out of me than she had spent running around in the sun. “Ah, my Evan,” she said, and kissed me furiously. “But such a building! Three times I went through the Cuban Pavilion. If only all our membership and sympathizers could be led through that edifice. How formidable! What an inspiration!”

“So the socialist revolution appeals to you?”

“Socialism? I spit upon socialism. But does it matter? It is not the nature of revolutionary sentiment that makes the pavilion so exciting. It is the fervor of revolution itself. How dramatically it is portrayed! How the slogans scream at one, how one can hear within one’s head the chatter of machine guns and the roar of the bombs. An inspiration, Evan.”

“When one is in a revolutionary mood, any revolution will do.”

“Precisely.” She lit a Gauloise. “It took me until my third visit to overcome the emotional impact of the pavilion. I was transported, I could barely look for whatever it was that I sought. But then the effect of the displays dissipated for me. I was able to observe dispassionately. I think-”


“You are right to be suspicious of the Cubans.”

“What are they doing?”

“I do not know.”

“But they’re doing something?”

“I am sure of it.” She drew on her cigarette. “I cannot tell you why I feel so, but the feeling is undeniable. The way the guards act, the way they glance here and there, something about them. The whole” – she gestured vacantly with both hands – “the entire atmosphere, the aura of the building itself. A sense that there was more to it than met the eye or ear. I am chattering like a silly woman-”

“No. I know what you mean.”

“But I did not actually see anything. Do you understand?” She hung her head. “I have found out nothing, in truth. Oh, Evan, I am worried about the girl, the poor little thing. It is not a good place to disappear, that pavilion. I sense it, I feel it. Of all the places where one might vanish, that is the last one I personally would select.”

I turned from her and walked to the window. It opened on an alleyway. I looked at the blank wall of the building opposite. I seemed to be looking at any number of blank walls lately, I thought. I cursed the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and I cursed Canadian Immigration and Customs and I saved special curses for the immortal soul of Jerzy Pryzeshweski. Minna was out there somewhere, and I ought to be out there looking for her, and instead I was cooped up in an apartment while everything went merrily to hell around me. A hot apartment, at that. A damned hot apartment. If I wanted to spend my time doing nothing, I could have stayed in my own hot apartment in Manhattan.

“You met with Emile, Evan?”


“How did the planning go?”

I gave her a quick rundown on the ambush plans, and she listened more carefully than I spoke, because her heart was in it and mine was not. When I finished, we fell into a listless silence. She took a turn looking out the window, and I went over to the bed and stretched out on it. She came to me, lay down beside me. I did not kiss her.

“My poor Evan.”

“That’s where she disappeared, there’s no question about it. At that damned showplace of the revolution.”

“Cherished one.”

“And she wasn’t lost or strayed. She was stolen. I wonder.”


I sat up. “Well, maybe they just like to kidnap people. Maybe that’s it. It’s an ideal setup for it, I suppose. A constant stream of visitors. They can single out the ones who seem to be alone and presumably won’t be missed. But-”

“But what?”

“But why?” I said. “Hell.” I got to my feet. “If we could both go there,” I said. “No, that’s out.”

“Why both of us?”

“One in front and one at the rear. One to count everyone entering the Cuban building and the other to count everyone leaving it. If more people go in than come out-”

“I see.”

“But it would be risky. In order to come up with anything remotely conclusive, we would have to stay at our posts for hours. Even if the police weren’t after me, I don’t think I could stay in one spot for that much time without someone noticing.”

“It would be difficult,” she admitted.

“You’d need a couple of people with a reason for being there. Ice cream vendors, something like that. But the concessions are too rigidly controlled, and an ice cream seller would be too busy selling ice cream anyway to keep an accurate count. I don’t see-”

“I have it.”


“The boys.”

“Jean and Jacques?” I grinned. “Somehow I don’t think so. Their approach would be to storm the pavilion with fixed bayonets. They’d be very good at it, too, but I doubt that-”

“Not them. Seth and Randolph.”

“I don’t remember them.”

“You do not know them. They are not of the movement. They are Americans, like yourself. They-”

“It might not be a good idea to bring in any Americans, Arlette.”

“But they are different. They are – how do you call it? They run from the cold.”


“Pardon. From the draft, the conscription.”


“But certainly.” Her face took on a dreamy expression. “They are idealists, but of course, and very young and very sweet.”

“You know them rather well, Arlette.”

“But yes,” she said, and glanced involuntarily at the bed.

“Both of them?”

“They are my very fine friends.”

“Joan of Arc.”

“Ah, but it is only you I love, Evan.” She tucked her arm in mine. “I will call them. They will be perfect, I know they will. They can remain in one spot for hours and no one will pay them the slightest bit of attention. Better than the sellers of ice cream.”


“You will see.”

She made a telephone call, telling the boys to come at once and bring their signs. I didn’t know what that meant, but before long they appeared and I found out.

Seth, the taller of the two, had brooding eyes and a full red beard. Randolph had shoulder-length hair and a scraggly mustache. And each wore a sign, sandwich-board affairs that covered them front and back from their shoulders to their knees. Randolph ’s sign said, Hey, hey, LJB, How Many Kids Did You Kill Today? Seth’s read, God Damn, Uncle Sam, Bring The Boys Home From Vietnam!

“I see what you mean,” I told Arlette. “Perfectly inconspicuous. Who would give them a second glance?”

Chapter 9

Around nine o’clock that night Seth and Randolph came to Arlette’s place a second time. They had disposed of the sandwich boards this time, and brought instead a paper sack of smoked meat sandwiches and a large bottle of Alsatian wine. We talked between bites and gulps, and by the time the food and wine was gone, I had the story.

The Cubans were stealing people.

They couldn’t tell me why, and I couldn’t guess, but the fact remained that in a period of some four hours eight more persons had entered the Cuban Pavilion than had left it. The two draft-dodgers had equipped themselves with hand-counters, made sure they started and finished at the same time, and were absolutely certain of their tally. They had no way of knowing who those missing eight persons were, whether they might be male or female, young or old, Canadian or American or whatever. But eight had gone in who had not come out, and that was what I had wanted to find out. Minna was not an isolated case but one of many. The Cubans were stealing people.

And, presumably, tucking them away somewhere inside their blasted pavilion.

“You did good work,” I told the two. “I’m very grateful.”

“No sweat,” Seth said.

“We go out there all the time anyway,” Randolph put in. “With our signs, and like that. You can stand in one spot until the world freezes and nobody makes any waves. We’re like part of the scenery.”

“No one gives you an argument?”

“Sometimes somebody’ll whisper, ‘Keep the faith, baby,’ or something like that. Or officials from some of the pavilions will ask us to move on. I guess they don’t want to jeopardize their country’s share of foreign aid. But Cuba was no problem at all. They don’t get any foreign aid from us.”

“And they’re pretty close to our own line on Vietnam,” Seth added.

I thought they might encounter harassment from American tourists, but they insisted that wasn’t the case. “Some of them agree with us, though they don’t want to get caught saying so. Probably eighty percent of them don’t much care one way or the other, just so their room is air-conditioned and the television set works.”

“The apathetic majority,” Randolph said.

“You know it. And the ones who would just as soon stick bayonets in us, well, they have to cool it, see? Because for all they know, we could be Canadians, in which case they would be starting an international incident and they might get called down at the next Rotary Club meeting for conduct unbecoming a clod. Some of them, the real flag-wavers, they get very uptight about the entire scene. I mean, it’s comical to watch them. They want to say something, or start swinging, and you can like feel their eyes, trying to read whether we’re Americans or Canadians or what the hell we are. My beard and Randy’s hair, that just worries them that much more.”

Prev Next
Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies