Tanner's Tiger Page 16

“Evan, it is late.”

“I know.”

“If we do not leave soon-”

“I know.”

“For soon the dawn will break, and without the cover of darkness-”

“Dammit, I know.”

We could try keeping them under surveillance, I thought. Seth and Randy would cooperate. We could post a guard around the pavilion and see what happened tomorrow night when the crowds left.

Better yet, I thought, we could bug the place. The MNQ might be composed of a bunch of half-mad fanatics, but there was considerable technological ability to draw upon. It shouldn’t be too difficult to return to the dungeon and plant a microphone or two in the walls. If nothing else, that would clear up some of the mystery surrounding the whole affair. If we could overhear what went on inside the dungeon during the day, when it was packed to capacity with prisoners and guards, we would at least have some sort of idea what we were up against.

In the meantime, though, there was next to nothing to do.


“You’re right,” I said. “We have to get out of here.”

“If anything were to be gained by staying-”

“No, you’re right,” I said. “Let’s go.”

We tried to clean up all traces of our visit. We added the broken flashlight to the collection of useless articles in the paper bag and tossed it carefully through the aperture to the floor above. I blew out the candle as soon as I had collected all of the burnt matches from the floor. Then we moved to directly below the opening, and I crouched down so that Arlette could climb onto my shoulders. I straightened up, and she got her arms over the edge and pulled herself through.

There were a few bad moments during which it seemed as though I would have to stay in the dungeon forever. I couldn’t quite jump high enough to get a purchase on the rim of the aperture, and I knew that Arlette was not strong enough to haul me up. I kept jumping and not quite making it, and Arlette was becoming quietly hysterical.

Ultimately I dragged over the single chair and stood on it. I jumped again, and caught the rim but couldn’t hold onto it, and came down heavily to the left of the chair. I tried again, and this time I caught hold of the rim and didn’t let go. Arlette gave me what help she could. I started slipping at the last minute, but then I managed to get one leg up and sort of spilled myself out onto the tiled floor. I didn’t move at first, and Arlette asked me if I was all right, and I said I was.

“How do the Cubans get out, Evan?”

I said I didn’t know. Perhaps they lowered a rope ladder, or perhaps they used a step stool and dragged it up after them. “It doesn’t matter,” I told her. “We’ll come back tomorrow night and plant a couple of microphones. I’m sure someone from the movement will be able to help us-”

“Claude, if he will help. Or others.”

“Good.” I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “At least we know the physical plant here. We won’t be working blind anymore.” I looked at my watch. “We were down there too long. We’d better get the hell out of here.”

“The chair, Evan. Will they not notice it?”


“Is there no way to return it to its place?”

“None I can think of. Maybe they’ll ignore it. The hell with it.”

“I could go down and return it, and then you could try to pull me out, and-”

“And then we’d be back where we started from.”


We got ready to go, and I threw the switch to close the aperture in the floor. It slid shut as silently as it had opened. Once it was closed, I dropped to my hands and knees to try to locate the seams in the floor. Even now, knowing where it was, I couldn’t distinguish any seams. The trapdoor was superbly engineered.

But why go to the trouble?

“Come on,” I said, taking Arlette’s hand. “I realize it’s hard for you to tear yourself away from such an enchanting place-”

“It is evil here. Satanic.”

We didn’t have to jimmy the door this time. The lock served only to keep people out. The door swung open easily, and I stuck my head out and looked and listened. I heard a car approaching and drew back inside. The car passed perhaps a hundred feet from us and kept on going. We waited until the sound of the engine died in the distance. Then I stuck my head out again, and looked and listened again, and the coast was as clear as it seemed likely to get. We slipped out into the night and headed for our boat. I held the paper bag in one hand and Arlette’s hand in the other. We walked quickly, less frightened of shadows now, less worried about the possibility of discovery.

Where would they take the prisoners? I thought it over and decided that the answer depended upon the motive. If they wanted ransom, for example, there would be no particular point in spiriting them out of the country; they would do better to keep them on some hidden estate in the Canadian countryside. If, on the other hand, they had some other use planned for them, they might want to get them out of Canada and into Cuba as quickly as possible.

The second line of reasoning seemed more logical. You couldn’t attempt to ransom a wholesale lot of prisoners without attracting attention. For that matter, you couldn’t invest that kind of money in a kidnaping for financial gain. The costs of building the pavilion, the costs of the entire arrangement-

Of course they might intend a wholesale exchange, I thought. They had traded prisoners for drugs once before, hadn’t they? And maybe the ransom demands would be directed against the United States Government. “If you want the victims back, vacate Guantanamo Bay ” – something like that.

I got fairly involved with thoughts like this. I held Arlette’s hand and hurried her along. And, because we had already been to the Cuban Pavilion and had left it undiscovered, I didn’t really worry much about someone’s spotting us.

I suppose the same thing happens to cat burglars and others of that ilk. Creep about long enough in silence and in darkness, and eventually one becomes sufficiently comfortable in that environment to dispense with fear. This happened to us. All we had to do was get to the boat and go home, and that’s what we were going to do. As far as I was concerned, the party was over.

My mistake.

I saw the man, perhaps a hundred yards ahead of us on the right. He was running toward us, and I grabbed Arlette and slapped a hand over her mouth to keep her from crying out. We dropped down to the ground at the side of the path.

Then the man stopped, abruptly. Forms had materialized out of the shadows, three of them. Someone cried out, but I could not make out what was said.



Something metallic glinted in the darkness. There was sudden movement, and then a crisp volley of shots rang out, and the man who had been running let out a brief cry and clutched himself. Then, in slow motion, he crumpled up and fell gently to the ground.

More movement. A man rushed to him, dropped to the ground, picked something up, straightened up and ran. Two other men were with him. Together they bolted from the man who had been shot and tore up the path toward us. I held onto Arlette and kept her close beside me in the darkness. The trio of assassins passed within a few yards of us without stopping. They ran on down the path behind us, and we stayed absolutely motionless until their footsteps had disappeared in the night.

When the sound of footfalls ceased, Arlette started to move. I stopped her with a hand on her shoulder and held my finger to her lips. She subsided. For five hour-like minutes we remained where we were, silent, still. I waited for the sound of a siren, waited for one of the wandering guards to happen on the scene. The sound of the gunshots had been extraordinarily loud in the silence of the night, and it seemed impossible that no one would come.

If someone did, I didn’t want to be moving around.

But no one came. I looked at my watch and decided that no one was going to come now. I stood up, and Arlette rose to her feet beside me.

She said, “Who was-”

“I don’t know. Let’s find out.”

The man, tall and thin and dark and dead, lay sprawled in the middle of the carpet of plastic grass fronting the Man In The Home Pavilion. He had bled all over that artificial lawn, and soon the world would discover if it was in fact as wondrously washable as its promoters claimed. I went through the formality of looking for a pulse. There was none.

I patted his pockets, found nothing. I picked up the murder gun from the grass beside his body, sniffed the barrel, threw it down again. I wondered if the dead man was a Cuban – he did not look particularly Cuban – or if he had been killed by Cuban agents. I wondered how he fit into everything, if at all.

“Do you know him, Evan?”


“Who killed him?”

“I don’t know that either.” I was suddenly dizzy, and I closed my eyes and took deep breaths to steady myself. We were in over our heads, I thought. We were playing a fool’s game with people who knew the rules far better than we.

“I think we should get out of here,” I said.

“I agree.”

This time we walked onward with caution. This time we moved in absolute silence, our ears attuned to the night sounds around us. This time, as we walked down the path to the waterway, we did not make the mistake of assuming we were alone.

But we still weren’t quite prepared. We reached the water’s edge, and I saw our little boat right where we had left it. And, alongside it, I saw another larger boat, empty.

Arlette’s hand tightened on my arm. And from the shadows a man emerged. There was a gun in his hand. He was smiling slightly, and he went on smiling as he placed the muzzle of the gun within three inches of my chest, directly over the heart.

Then he said, in highly accented French, “The bullet that will kill me is not yet cast.”

Chapter 11

The bullet that will kill me is not yet cast.

How interesting, I thought. It was a claim I myself would have liked to make, but one that if made would soon prove to be demonstrably false. Because I had the unassailable feeling that the bullet that would kill me had been cast, and that it reposed at that very moment in the cylinder of the revolver that was pointing at my heart.

“The bullet that will kill me is not yet cast,” the man repeated, a touch of malice in his voice. I looked at the gun and tried to estimate my chances against it. I could make some sort of grab for it, try to knock it aside and beat the idiot’s brains out. I readied myself, and then I took careful note of the way the index finger was curled tautly around the trigger. He wasn’t just pointing the gun at me. He was getting ready to fire it.

“Nor is the bullet yet cast, nor shall it ever be cast, that can put to death a grand idea. Nor is the bullet cast that will slay France.”

The same accent, the same vaguely familiar yet quietly meaningless sort of rhetoric. But the speaker was not the man now. It was Arlette, her voice ringing with conviction, her hand still firm in its grip upon my arm.

“And so I pledge myself,” she went on, “and my honor, and my life and soul, to the overthrow of the Bourbon yoke and the prompt restoration of the seed of empire-”

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