Tanner's Tiger Page 14

The two of them did more than parade around wearing signs. Each of them put in several hours a week at the office of a pacifist organization on Front Street, stuffing envelopes, proofreading newsletters, and otherwise campaigning against war in general and the Vietnamese operation in particular. They devoted the greater portion of their time to encouraging American college students to come north to avoid the draft.

“We get accused of copping out,” Seth said. “You know, like we should either join the army and kill a commie for Christ or spend five years in Leavenworth for our principles. I think this is more active, you know. Martyrdom is for masochists.” He shrugged. “But a lot of the time I think, well, why hack the whole thing? Send out newsletters, and the only people you impress are the ones who already agree with you. I mean, if you stop to think things out, what good does any of it do?”

“If everybody stopped to think things out,” I said, “no one would get out of bed in the morning. Ever.”

After the boys went home, I made Arlette go to sleep for a few hours. She kept insisting she wasn’t tired, and began a long speech on the relationship of the American antiwar movement and the MNQ. I don’t think any such relationship really existed, but the Quebec terrorists are apt to fall into temporary alliances with a great variety of types. A couple of years ago some of them joined a Black Nationalist plot to dynamite the Statue of Liberty, which was a gift from France, actually, so I suppose it wasn’t surprising that Arlette had managed to theorize a common bond with the boys. As with most of her alliances, she had sealed the bond in her cozy little bed, loving them either in turn or in tandem; she had not made that clear, and I did not ask, hoping I would never have to know.

All of that, she had assured me, was over and done with. She was capable of loving only one man at a time, and I was her man now, and the past was the past, and, after all, she had already told me she was no maid, either of Orleans or of Montreal. So I couldn’t hold it against her, but neither could I just then develop any tremendous wave of personal enthusiasm for her, so I let her lie in bed by herself instead of keeping her closer company.

She went on talking, and then she stopped abruptly in the middle of a sentence, stopped talking without even reaching a comma, and promptly commenced snoring or breathing heavily, as you prefer. I put in twenty minutes on my back on the floor, relaxing. This wasn’t really necessary; I was so relaxed I was afraid my bones would melt. But it was something to pass the time.

I passed more time drinking coffee and reading and thinking things out. Somewhere to the east of us the Expo began concluding its business for another day. I tried to figure out what the Cubans were doing with the eight or ten people they stole every day. Or more – according to Randy and Seth, that many had disappeared in a matter of hours. But at a rate of ten a day, they would be making off with three hundred victims a month, or something like two thousand in the course of the fair.

Who on earth were they? And what would the Cubans do with them? Where would they even store them, for the love of God?

I let Arlette sleep. And, off to the east, I let the fair get ready for sleep itself. As far as I could tell, things got extremely quiet after midnight and ran out of steam entirely by two in the morning, when the entertainment area in La Ronde closed down. There was almost certainly a skeleton crew handling cleanup operations during the dark hours, but it stood to reason that they would be few and far between.

So at two thirty I woke Arlette, who was just as bad at getting up in the middle of the night as at a more reasonable hour. But I poured coffee into her and pointed her at the bathroom, and when she emerged from it, she was alive again.

It was the time for it, certainly. And we had worked out the details reasonably well. She packed a lunch for us in the same paper bag that had contained smoked meat sandwiches a few hours earlier, and I tucked a screwdriver and a chisel and some hunks of plastic into the bag, and away we went.

The weather cooperated. Clouds neatly obscured moon and stars. The streets were virtually deserted. Arlette’s car, a Renault (naturellement) was in a garage around the block. She fetched it and picked me up and off we went.

The secret of Minna’s disappearance, and perhaps Minna herself, were locked in the Cuban Pavilion.

It was time to open the locks.

Chapter 10

“The flashlight worries me,” Arlette said.

“We are coming closer now. It would not do to be seen.”

“A boat without a light would be even more conspicuous.”


“And wildly unsafe,” I added. “When we cut the engines, then we can try running without a light. But not now.”

I piloted our little ship down one of the St. Lawrence channels, hopefully in the direction of Ile de Notre Dame. Arlette crouched in the stern, playing the flashlight over my shoulder at the water ahead of us. The cloud cover had not blown away. The night remained quite black, with only the lights of downtown Montreal shining behind us.

The boat was what we needed and little more, a flat-bottomed rowboat equipped with a small outboard motor. There were a pair of oars as well, and I was glad for them; the motor didn’t make all that much noise, but sounds carry on water and I wanted the last leg of our approach to be reasonably silent.

Arlette had arranged for the boat with a simple telephone call to an unspecified friend. It had been left for us, and we hoped to return it to the same spot where we had found it. Without it we might have had a difficult time; none of the conventional modes of transport at the fair operated at this hour, and, while there were roads and bridges, we could not have used them inconspicuously.

We moved onward, until I could see the shapes of the pavilions not too far in the distance. There was some light there as well but not very much. I cut the engine and told Arlette to put out the flashlight. She asked if she ought to get rid of her cigarette as well. That sounded a little melodramatic to me, but I felt there was no sense crushing the poor girl’s sense of theater. I told her we wanted a complete blackout, and she arced the cigarette over the side and into the river.

We moved more slowly with the oars, but it wasn’t too bad; the current, such as it was, was on our side. And, wonder of wonders, I did not get lost at all. I guided us neatly from this channel to that channel, placed the blades of the oars smoothly in the water to avoid splashing, and got us right where I wanted to. I didn’t have the official Expo map along, which is, no doubt, how I avoided getting lost.

We docked. I tied the painter to a concrete pillar, hauled the oars inside, and stood up on the seat in the middle (which probably has a good nautical name, but it’s enough of an accomplishment for me to know about painters and oars and sterns) for a look around. I couldn’t see or hear anyone. I hauled myself up onto the shore – it’s hard to think of it as a shore when it’s paved with asphalt – then leaned down to take the flashlight and the bagful of goodies from Arlette. I helped her up and out, and we hurried through the suddenly deserted streets toward the Cuban Pavilion. For once the more popular pavilions had no line. I was tempted to break into all of them just to see the show.

There was enough light from the streetlamps scattered here and there to make our way, and not enough to show us up readily. In the stillness some sounds of human activity were audible. Motorized sweepers moved through the streets; garbage collectors prepared the concrete bins for tomorrow’s assault.

The front entrance to the Cuban Pavilion was too exposed. We slipped around to the back, and I winked the flashlight at the door, then closed in on it and attacked the lock with the tools I had brought. A strip of plastic finally did the trick. I slipped the catch, then had Arlette hold the hunk of plastic in place so that the lock stayed back while I drew the door open. It opened outward, and there was no handle on the outside, so I had to grip the edge of it with my fingertips and sort of coax it open. It took a while, but we managed it and got inside.

I was absolutely certain somebody would grab us the minute we entered. The events in Emile’s basement came vividly to mind. I expected a blow on the head, or a gun barrel poked between my ribs, or a bright light flashed in our faces. None of these fears materialized. We stood together in utter silence for almost a full minute, then moved away from the door. I played the beam of the flashlight around the interior of the building. No human forms lurked in the stillness, none but our own.

“We have to be absolutely silent,” I whispered. “If they’re kidnaping people, they have to be keeping them somewhere, and they have to have guards. There must be a room here, somewhere. So they must have had the whole thing in mind when they built the damned place, which means they had plenty of time to design something very well hidden.”

“Then where do we look?”

“I don’t really know. Shhh!”

We wandered around foggily on little cat feet. It was one of the easiest buildings in the world to search – large, empty areaways, no thick inside walls – and one of the hardest in which to find anything. We covered the first floor, climbed the stairs, checked out the second floor, descended the stairs again, and stood around stupidly looking at each other.



“Perhaps the restaurant…”

The restaurant was in a separate building. I thought for a moment, then shook my head. “No. More people entered this building than left it. That means they have to be here.”

“But where? There is no place to conceal a secret room. The entire roof is a skylight, the walls-”

“Oh, hell,” I said. “Of course.”


“The basement.”

“There is a basement? I did not-”

“I didn’t either, but there has to be a basement. When all of the impossibilities are eliminated, only the possible is left. Or something like that.” I was whispering too loudly, and stopped myself. “A hidden basement. It would be no problem to build in something like that. If we look for a seam in the floor-”

“Look at the floor, Evan.”

I did, and abandoned that whole train of thought. The floor was tile, and there were seams every ten inches, one as likely as the next to mask the aperture to the cellar below. We checked the entire floor out anyway, just to make sure, and it was no go.

“Then there’s a switch that opens it,” I went on. “A button, a switch, some way of getting the thing open.”


“So we must find that switch.”

We looked. We went over the whole place, working feverishly now, and all we managed to prove was the invalidity of the hypothesis – there was not a switch. Unless, of course, it lurked behind a secret panel, or was contained in some portable remote-control device.

Or, for that matter, unless it was in the basement. Suppose, when they wanted to open the thing, they signaled their man downstairs, and he pressed a button or threw a switch.

It was possible.

Almost anything was possible.

“It’s no damned use,” I said. “We’ve checked everywhere.”

“It is so. There are only those silly light switches at the entrance, and-”

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