Tanner's Tiger Page 21

Seth and Randy exchanged glances. Seth said, “I think he’s still stoned out of his gourd.”

“Sounds like.”

But they were both wrong. I knew exactly what I meant, and I had a hunch it would work.

Chapter 14

Arlette didn’t have a map of the Montreal area on hand. She offered to go buy one, but I chose to save time by sketching a rough map on a sheet of notebook paper. The four of us sat around the kitchen table while I outlined the route the royal barge would take.

At a bend in the river, I made an X. “This is where the ambush is scheduled to take place,” I said. “Up here on the right there’s a sort of hill that provides a perfect vantage point of the river. Off to this side is a clump of brush that also bears down upon the ambush point. And down here” – I made a pencil mark – “is a natural inlet, a pocket bay just large enough to hold a motorboat.”

Randy said, “Question.”

“Go ahead.”

“Which checkmark is the Texas Book Depository?”

I looked at him, and he apologized. I pointed again with the pencil. “Now this is how they’re going to do it,” I said. “One man – Claude – will be on top of the hill with a pair of binoculars and a rifle. He’ll pick up the barge just as it approaches Point X and fire a volley of three shots across the bow. That serves two purposes – it identifies the barge positively for the other three and should also slow it down some, if not stop it entirely.

“As soon as Claude starts shooting, the rest of them go into their act. Jean and Jacques Berton will be here in the clump of brush. Or next to it, or in back of it, whatever. They have a machine gun-”

“Sweet Jesus.”

“Exactly. They’ll begin firing as soon as Claude goes into action. The way things are set up, they’ll be able to triangulate on the barge. With shots coming from two different directions, the captain won’t be able to get out of the line of fire. He’s almost certain to freeze.”

“Got it,” Seth said. “The hill is the Texas Book Depository, and the clump of brush is the Grassy Knoll.”

“Whatever way you want it. There’s more coming. Once the shooting starts up, Emile begins sailing from the cove-”


“He’ll be in the sheltered cove in a motorboat, a fast one. He’ll have a pistol, but that’s the least of it. The boat will be overflowing with explosives. Plastique, dynamite, God knows what else. While the triangulated gunfire freezes the barge, Emile will set out for it at top speed on a collision course.” I sighed and shook my head. “He’s arranging things so that the explosive charge goes off on impact.”

Arlette was hearing the details for the first time and seemed staggered by them. She kept murmuring little oaths in French. The boys’ reaction was ambivalent; they seemed torn between horror at the enormity of the deed and admiration for the sweet simplicity of it.

Randy said, “Good-bye, Queenie.”

“That’s the general idea.”

“I don’t see how they can miss, man. Unless there’s a mess of police boats for escorts-”

“There probably will be. It doesn’t matter – with all the confusion that the gunshots will generate, it’s highly unlikely that anybody will even notice Emile’s boat, much less do anything to stop it. He’ll have the throttle tied all the way down once he gets going, so that even if he’s shot dead, the boat will go along on its merry way.”

“I’d love to meet the clown who planned this.”

I coughed. “Well,” I said, “I planned some of it-”


I nodded, equally proud and ashamed. When we’d had our planning session Saturday afternoon, I had added a few refinements, on the theory that if one was going to do something, one might as well do it right. I was a little sorry about that now. The plan was almost too right.

I raised the pencil again. “Now here’s what we do,” I said, with what was supposed to be contagious confidence in my voice. “Timing is very important. The Queen is scheduled to arrive at the fairgrounds at eight thirty. If she follows that schedule, and it’s logical to assume that she will, then the barge will reach Point X somewhere between seven fifty and eight ten. The assassins will be at their posts from seven o’clock on, and they’ll expect to hit the barge at eight, give or take a few minutes. If the barge isn’t there on time, then we have a chance.”

Arlette looked at me. “But they will simply wait-”

“I’ve got that figured out. Let’s take one thing at a time. The first step is to delay the royal barge. The longer it’s delayed, the better our chances look.” I pointed the pencil at the boys. “That’s where you two come in.”




“You delay the barge right here,” I said, indicating a spot a few inches to the west on my little map. “There’s a narrows here – the river dips around an island to the south, which I didn’t put on the map, but it’s right around there somewhere. That’s where you stop the good lady.”

“With what?”

“A demonstration. Queen Elizabeth – Stop The Shitty War In Vietnam. Something like that. It doesn’t-”

Seth was looking at me oddly. “Evan,” he said, “just what in the hell can Queen Elizabeth do about the war in Vietnam?”

“Nothing. The point is-”

“I mean, England isn’t even in the war, for Christ’s sake.”

“I know. The point is-”

“I mean, of all the people to picket, I don’t see-”

“Will you please let me tell you what the point is?”

“I’m sorry.”

“God in Heaven,” I said. I drew a breath. “I don’t really care whether the demonstration is about the Vietnam war or the British presence in Aden or Hong Kong or whatever the hell you want. I said Vietnam because I figured you already had plenty of signs made. We don’t have much time.”

“I’m sorry, Evan.”

“And if you interrupt every ten seconds, we’ll have even less time.”

“I said I was sorry.”

“Mmmm,” I said. Evan Michael Tanner, Leader of Men. “You organize a demonstration,” I went on, more calmly this time. “Get everybody you possibly can in on it, the more the merrier. Mass at the narrows at seven thirty. No earlier, or the police might break you up and send you home before the Queen arrives. You won’t have trouble spotting the royal barge. It will be flying English and Canadian flags and will probably have an escort. Once the barge comes into view, do your bit.” I thought for a moment. “On second thought, hold off until the barge enters the narrows. Then do your bit in front of it. Otherwise someone might decide to get clever and take an end run around the island.”

“Got it. What do we do, just make a lot of noise and wave the signs?”

“No. They’d sail right by.”

“That’s what I thought.”

“You’ll need boats. You’ll have to form a regular boat bridge across the channel. They’ll break you up sooner or later, but that should give us all the time we need.”

“To do what?”

“There’s no time now. Get rowboats, canoes, rafts, anything that can float. And as large a crowd as you can put together. And-”

“We’ll get busted,” Randy said.

“Probably, but the charges won’t amount to anything. You might get fined, you might even have to do ten days. I’ll take care of the fines-”

He was shaking his head. “You don’t get it. We don’t mind the fines, or even doing a short bit. That’s not the point. The thing is, what they would probably do, in fact what they already did to a cat who got picked up for possession of pot, is ship us back to the States as undesirable aliens. We don’t have Canadian citizenship or anything. So getting busted might mean getting sent home.”

“Which would mean the draft board,” Seth said.

“Which would mean Leavenworth,” Randy said.

“For five years.”

“Or Vietnam.”

“For as long as it takes to get killed.”

“Oh,” I said. I thought about it. “This pacifist organization you belong to – does it have any Canadian members?”

“Quite a few.”

“And there are probably some other political groups, local ones, that you have ties with?”

“Oh, sure. There’s the Labor Youth League, and there’s-”

“Just so there are some, that’s all I’m interested in. Suppose you just set up the demonstration without participating in it? Suppose you stocked it with local people? You could stay on the sidelines and do the planning and set up the timing, and then you could slip away as soon as things got started.”

“It might work.”

“I like that better,” I went on. “Because I could probably use you later on. You think you could round up a sufficient number of Canadians to stop that boat? It would take at least thirty, and fifty would be better. There’s not much time.”

“We can do it.”

“Are you sure?”

“No sweat. There’s not that much really active political work going on, and plenty of our crowd would be glad to join in. Especially when they realize they’ll be saving the Queen’s life.”



“You can’t tell anyone that,” I said. “Not a word. That’s the whole point – if we just wanted to keep the woman alive, we could tip off the police and let justice be done. The assassination would be stopped and that would be the end of it. The important thing is to louse it up without lousing it up, if you follow me. Nobody can know a thing.”

“They wouldn’t talk, Evan.”

“They’d talk the minute they were arrested.”

He scratched his head. “You could be right. That makes it harder, though. Fifty Canadians who have to protest without knowing why. I think we can forget the Vietnam angle, Evan. They’d never go for it. Maybe Aden would do it, unless they happen to support the British stand in Aden -”

“Some of them probably do,” I agreed. “Make it Modonoland.”

“I never heard of it.”

“It’s one of the new African nations. Protest the British policy on Modonoland. The signs could say something like Hands Off Modonoland, that sort of thing.”

“Sounds good,” Seth said. “Uh, just so we know, I mean, like, if anybody asks-”


“Well, man, I hate to seem uninformed, but just what is the British policy on Modonoland?”

“I don’t think they have one.”


“There hasn’t been any trouble in Modonoland,” I said. “Not that I know of. If Britain has had any involvement with the country, I never heard about it. So who’ll disagree with you? Oh, I suppose one or two contrary types will insist that Britain has every right to be in Modonoland, but everyone else will go along with you. They can’t support a policy that doesn’t exist, but they can certainly attack it.”

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