Tanner's Tiger Page 19

Then I wrote down Assassination. And, on the same line, Sunday 8 P.M. Maybe there was a way after all, I thought I could tip off the authorities anonymously, and then I could get word to Emile that the authorities knew about it, and he and the others from MNQ would be able to abort the entire operation. If the police were already on the spot-

Of course Claude and the Bertons might be hot-headed enough to try going ahead with it anyway. But at least it would save the Queen and might even keep everybody in the clear. I beamed momentarily; maybe the list-making had something to be said for it after all.

Of course De Gaulle’s remark had been a godsend, and of course it was time for martyrdom, for the grand act, and if only there were some way short of assassination-

I turned my mind back to my list. I was by no means through with it. On the next line down I wrote Heroin.

Now there was another one to conjure with. What the hell was I going to do with the heroin? I didn’t even want to think about its value, but it had to be truly enormous. There seemed no question but that the world would be considerably better off if I flushed it all down the toilet, but I wasn’t entirely certain that I would be. Even if possession were nine points of the law, the heroin remained one-tenth the property of the Union Corse, and I had the feeling they would consider that tenth the most important part of the question.

If they knew I had the heroin – and my fingerprints on the damned murder gun would surely put that unpleasant idea in their heads – then they would want it back and would feel unkindly toward me for having it. It is not inordinately wise to have someone like the Union Corse mad at you.

So I would have gladly given it back to them, no questions asked. But how was I to go about doing that? I looked at my list, and I stared myopically at the word Heroin, and then I took a breath and moved on to the next line and licked the tip of my pencil and wrote Cops.

Because it did look as though I had established myself now and forever as Public Enemy Number One on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border. The murder charge was the final straw. Sooner or later someone was going to catch me, and when that happened, I didn’t know what the hell I was going to do. The Chief might decide to come to my aid, and then again he might not; meanwhile, there was no way for me to get in touch with him. I didn’t even know the bastard’s name. And even if he did try to help, he would have to fight the police of two countries for me, and I was by no means certain that he swung enough weight. As things stood, I could not remain in Canada, nor could I go back to the States.

I looked at the list, drawing some comfort from the fact that the word Cops was at the bottom of it. That meant I wasn’t supposed to worry about it for the time being. I was supposed to put it clear out of my mind, along with Heroin and Assassination. Meanwhile, I would devote one hundred percent of my time and effort to Item One: Minna.

Which meant-

Which meant, I decided, that I was precisely back where I had started. If I had made any progress, I was damned if I could see what it was. I had a few words written in a notebook, and I had let the clock go ticking onward, and that was about the size of it. It looked as though I were never going to make a million dollars or win friends or manipulate people or become head of my firm or be the richest kid on my block. Or rescue Minna, or thwart the assassination, or unload the heroin, or clear myself with the police.

This was as far as I had ever gotten with the list-making process. Now, according to the rules, it was time for me to go out and get drunk. I would have liked to, but I didn’t dare go out, for one thing, and I couldn’t dismiss the feeling that getting drunk right about now might be a bad idea.

And so, on the theory that action is better than inaction, I did the only thing I could think of at the time. I tore up the list.

By the time Arlette came back with the microphone and receiver, our twenty-eight hours were down to twenty-seven. By the time I left her apartment and headed for the Cuban dungeon, they had been further reduced to seventeen. The intervening ten hours were awful.

For openers, Arlette’s mood was one of incautious optimism, a mood I found myself wholly incapable of sharing. I suppose she felt better in part because she had gone out and done something while I sat making idiot lists. Whatever the explanation, she was bubbling like a percolator. We had the microphone, therefore we were on the right track, therefore we would save Minna and the Queen and liberate Quebec and discover a cure for cancer and live happily ever after.

She wanted to celebrate horizontally.

Well, I didn’t.

I’m perfectly aware that this was the wrong attitude for me to take. It wasn’t as though I were busy doing something else, because I couldn’t do anything until the fair closed for the day. So we certainly had time to make love, and she certainly had the inclination, and I didn’t, and that’s not the way red-blooded men are supposed to act. James Bond, for example, would have unhesitatingly bounced her into bed the moment she came through the door. He would not even have waited for the triumphal presentation of microphone and receiver. If he had been given to list-making, Ball Arlette would have been right up there at the top, and until it was done and done well, he would not even have given a thought to the other dilemmas.

In case you have not yet doped it out, I am not in his league.

Nor, however, am I an utter cad. When Arlette began hinting at the idea of bed, I tried to pretend that I was just too thickheaded to follow her lead. She responded by throwing subtlety to the winds and her clothes to the floor, and I joined her on the bed and kissed her and cuddled her, quietly determined to play out my part properly whether I felt like it or not.

My heart was in the right place, but that was the only thing that was. Arlette did everything she could think of, along with a few things that I don’t suppose I could have thought of. She worked desperately to demonstrate her loyalty to French culture, but nothing worked. When she realized that nothing would do any good, she dashed from the bed to the bathroom and stood inside crying her eyes out. The little room must have acted as an echo chamber; I think they could have heard her crying ten miles away.

I tried the door. It was locked. I told her to come out and she announced that she was going to slash her wrists and kill herself. I told her that it was certainly not her fault, and that if anyone deserved slashing it was me, and that I could think of something other than wrists to attack.

When she emerged finally, her pretty face washed free of tears, she came to me and patted my cheek sympathetically. “Jean d’Arc,” she said. “My chaste hero, my knight in shiny armor. Your mind is on other things, you burn with devotion to the cause, of course you must not make love to Arlette.”

She seemed convinced. I’m not sure I was. I thought of the list of things I couldn’t do and realized I had one more thing to add to it. When impotence strikes, it hits you everywhere.

We sat around for a while, waiting for the fair to close up shop, and then it occurred to me to test the mi-crophone and the receiving gadget, and the thing didn’t work. Arlette remembered that someone had dropped the mike recently. I took it apart with a screwdriver and found a broken thing in it. I don’t know what the broken thing was, or what it was supposed to do. But without it we seemed to be up a tree.

She got us out of that one. She told me she had an idea and left without an explanation. I wasn’t sorry to see her go – we’d been getting on each other’s nerves – but I didn’t really expect her to come up with anything. She did, though, returning with Seth and Randy in tow. Seth handed me a microphone and asked me if it would work.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Where’s the receiver?”

“Probably in police headquarters. It’s one of the bugs they put in our office. Somebody fastened it to the underside of the mimeo machine.”

“We thought you could rob it of the broken part and repair ours,” Arlette said.

“This is a live mike,” I said.

Somebody nodded.

“They can pick up what we’re saying right now, at police headquarters or wherever.”

“Yes, but-”

“Be quiet,” I said.

I took the bug apart. It was a completely different model from ours, but it had a piece like the piece that was broken in our unit, and I studied the way it was connected and took it out and put it in our mike. When we tested it again, it worked. I demolished the rest of the draft-dodgers’ bug with my shoe. It seemed faintly possible that our mike would now send signals to our receiver and to the police unit as well, but I decided that this was another possibility to be added to the long unwritten list of things that ought not to be thought about.

The next few hours were deadly. The four of us sat around listening to the radio. I kept changing stations to avoid listening to a newscast. They weren’t going to tell me anything I wanted to hear.

I finally got out of there. Arlette wanted to come along, perhaps in the hope that the dungeon would once again unlock my libido. Seth and Randy also volunteered to join me. I insisted on going alone. It would be easy this time. I merely had to get into the building, press the switch (I knew which one it was, for a change), hide the bug somewhere, close up shop, and leave.

I found the boat and had no trouble following last night’s course to Ile de Notre Dame. I docked at precisely the same spot. I left the boat and carried the bug with me to the Cuban Pavilion, and then a bad day turned worse.

They had guards posted. Four of them, two in front and two at the rear. Four armed guards who stood rigidly at attention and who gave every appearance of being wholly alert.

For a long time I sat in the shadows and watched them from a distance. They didn’t fall asleep or go away or die or anything of the sort. They stayed right where they were and seemed likely to stay there until the fair reopened in the morning.

I went back to my boat and began rowing. I half hoped it would sink, but it didn’t. Boats never sink when you want them to.

Chapter 13

They were all at the apartment when I got back. I knocked on the door and Arlette opened it, and I walked in flipping the microphone up in the air and catching it, flipping and catching, like George Raft’s half dollar bit. I ignored their questions and went on playing with the microphone. It was about the size of a plum but less useful.

“Guards all over the place,” I explained eventually. “We must have left something behind in the dungeon the other night. I don’t know what – a cigarette butt, maybe. Or maybe they always have guards except on Saturdays. That doesn’t make much sense, but neither does anything else lately. It doesn’t matter. The place is guarded and there’s no way to plant the bug and I think I’ve just about had it. Is there anything to drink?”


“That’s wonderful,” I said.

Seth mentioned that there was a little wine back at their place. I told him not to bother. “Or we could turn on,” he suggested.

I looked at Arlette. “I thought I told you to keep quiet about that.”

“About what, Evan?”

“You holding, Evan?”

“But I said nothing,” Arlette said. “I never mentioned the heroin.”

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