Tanner's Tiger Page 22

“That’s brilliant.”

“Think you can handle it?”

“I hope so. It’s what – nine thirty now? And you want us to be in position by seven thirty? That’s nine hours-”

“Ten hours.”

“Well, whatever it is. Ten hours. Five people an hour, that shouldn’t be too much of a hassle.”

“And boats. Don’t forget the boats. And it would probably be a good idea if the two of you went on ahead to the narrows to look the place over in advance. Determine just how many boats you’ll need and how you want to stage it. Make sure your demonstrators know where the place is and have them all meet there. Have them come individually or in small groups. Otherwise one inquisitive cop could spoil the whole show in advance.”

“We always work demonstrations that way.”


They got to their feet. Then Seth turned to me. “How much of an edge do you want, Evan? How long do you expect us to hold them?”

“As long as possible, naturally.” I shrugged. “That’s really as much as I can say. A half hour would be good. Fifteen minutes might be enough, but that would be cutting it a little close. The longer the barge is delayed, the better our chances are of cooling things at Point X.”

“How are you going to handle that, by the way?”

“I’m going to try to get them to blow up the wrong boat. The idea is-” I broke off. “To hell with it, there’s no time now. If it works, you’ll know what happened. If it doesn’t, it won’t matter what was supposed to happen. Do what you can to set things up. Remember, the more demonstrators the better, and the longer you can hold the barge the better. When something goes wrong-”

“You mean if something goes wrong.”

“If and when, try to let me know about it. Either Arlette or I will be here for most of the afternoon. If anything goes wrong at the last minute, I don’t know what to tell you to do.”

“Tip the fuzz?”

“No, don’t do that no matter what happens. Well, let me amend that. If you learn that I’m killed between now and then-”

“Are you serious?”

“Anything’s possible. I could get hit by a bus or shot resisting arrest or I don’t know what. If you hear that, you might as well blab to the police. But make sure they listen to you if you do. Police are apt to take down a statement and type up three copies and file them, and let the Queen get killed in the meantime. If you have to sing, sing out loud and clear.”

They both nodded soberly. And Seth said, “This is for real, isn’t it.”

“Right. No games.”

“We’ll make it work, Evan. That barge is going to stay put for half an hour if I have to use myself for the anchor.”

I looked at him and at Randy. They were pretty good at kidding, but they weren’t kidding now. The flip-hip easiness was on the shelf. They knew what they had to do and they were going to do it. They also knew what would happen to them if a wheel came off, and they wouldn’t be able to forget it over the next ten hours, but I had a hunch they would carry through regardless.

And I smiled then at the thought that the States was overflowing with cretins who had already written these kids off as gutless wonders, scared of getting their asses shot off in Southeast Asia. And I thought back to my own time in Korea, and thought of some of the men in my outfit, and of myself.

At that age hardly anyone really worries about death. I certainly hadn’t. I had known that the possibility of my dying existed, and when I was in actual front-line combat and watched men catch bullets on either side of me, I was certainly scared, but I don’t think I ever honestly conceived of the idea of my own personal death. It was something that happened to other people; I was eighteen years old and I was going to live forever, or to be fifty, anyway, which at that age amounts to the same thing.

I certainly didn’t think about dying when I went in to the service. Or during training. One doesn’t. At that age a jail sentence or forced exile or ostracism are all scarier than the statistical possibility of death in combat.

Gutless wonders? No, the cowards played a different game. They worked a psychiatrist for a certification that would get them a 4-F, or they found a way to flunk the physical, or they got married and hatched a little draft deferment. Or they thought about Leavenworth and Canada and how their families would take it and what kind of job opportunities would exist for draft-dodgers, and then they shrugged like good German soldiers and let themselves be drafted.

“Evan? You said something about us getting together afterward.”

“Oh.” I took a sip of coffee. “Right. We’ll need you again later on when we rescue Minna, but-”

“Not tonight?”

“Definitely. The only way to get out of this mess is to do everything at once. I’ll want your help, but I don’t know where or when.”

“That’s a song.”

“I know. Look, call me right here at six o’clock, whether things are going well or not. By that time I’ll have the planning down pat and I’ll tell you where to meet me. And” – I hauled out my wallet, passed them a few bills – “take this. Don’t walk when you can take cabs. Time is more important than money right now.”

“We have some bread.”

“Take it anyway. You might have to rent boats. Don’t cut corners, don’t try to save money. Just stop that barge.”


They left. Gutless wonders, I thought. Hippies. Cultural dropouts. Draft-dodgers. Pot-smokers.


“They’re going to be good,” I told Arlette.

“They are good boys, cherished one.” And then I guess she must have considered some of the ways in which they were good, because she blushed. “Evan,” she said, “I disgust you, is it not so? Ah, what you must think of me! But my cherished Evan…”

If she was going to be any good at all in the next ten hours, we had to get this out of the way once and for all. I said, “It was fun, wasn’t it?”


“In bed, while everyone was high. It was nice and warm and gentle and friendly, right? It was fun. It felt good.”

“I am the name of a pig.”

“Just answer the question.”

“But of course it felt good. It was… I cannot talk about it.”

“Then don’t.”

“You do not hate me?”

“Of course not.”

“You do not find me despicable?”

“I find you delightful. You are being silly. Is a woman to be despised because she has had a lover, because she is not a virgin?”

“No, but-”

“Is she to be despised because in the course of her life she has had more than one lover?”

“No, but-”

“She could have ten, twenty, thirty lovers, is it not so?”

“Yes, but-”

“So if she should happen to be with two of those lovers at the same time, is this reason for despising her? A mere temporal coincidence? Certainly not!”

“Once even there were three,” she said dreamily. “Oh, Evan! Then you do not detest me? You still love me?”

“I still love you,” I said. I took a very deep breath. “Now let’s forget all that, shall we? We’ve got a lot to do, you and I.”

Chapter 15

I tried to go over the whole operation with Arlette. This didn’t work out very well. She didn’t have the right kind of mind for it, and kept interrupting with idiot questions about things I had already explained to her. Other times she tried to rush ahead and asked about points that I was saving for later on. When I blew up she insisted that I did not love her and that I despised her for making love with Seth and Randy. It was hard going for a while, until I realized that Arlette was not the type to cope with a long-range plan. She had to deal with one specific task at a time, and it only complicated matters to explain to her why she was supposed to do thus and so. You don’t tell a horse why you want to turn right, you just pull the reins in that direction (or in the other direction; I still don’t remember which is right).

It was thus with Arlette. If she had to think about something, she was very likely to foul it up. Once I’d figured this out, things went a whole lot smoother.

“I need a pistol,” I said.

“Must we shoot someone?”

“Forget it. I need a pistol. Do you have one?”

“No. Emile-”

“I don’t think we should ask Emile for a pistol.”

“But perhaps-”

She was making a beeline for another tangent. I held up my hand. “Stop. We need a pistol. Not from Emile. Can you purchase one?”

“No. One must-”

“Forget it. Can you obtain one from someone who is not in the MNQ?”


“Can you get one from some member besides the four who are in on the assassination? Someone who has some guns tucked away for an eventual rising?”

“Henri has a great stock of weapons. Did you meet him? He was-”

“Then, he won’t miss one pistol. That’s good. Get one from him, preferably forty-five or thirty-eight caliber, preferably an automatic, but take what you can get. Just one gun should do.”

“He will ask why I want it.”

“Tell him you were ordered to get it. If he asks more questions, tell him that is all you are allowed to tell him. The simplest lies are best. Henri doesn’t know about the assassination? Forget the question, it doesn’t matter. Just get the gun.”


“And make sure it’s loaded,” I called after her.

As I said, she was fine once you knew how to handle her. She was back in twenty minutes with a fully loaded Marley automatic plus an extra seven-shot clip for insurance. It was a.32, which was lighter than I would have liked but still heavy enough to do most jobs. The gun was made in Japan, like everything else. I wondered if I would be able to hit anything with it and hoped I would never have to try.

I hefted the gun in my hand. “Perfect,” I said. “I made a few phone calls while you were out. What I want you to do now is go down to the Link-Wright Shipping Company. Look lost and helpless and beautiful. You have to find out what the barge will look like and when it’s going to reach Point X.”

“The royal barge?”

“God, no. We already know that. The other one, the target.” I thought for a moment. “Okay, here’s a thought. Your kid brother has some horrible disease. Something crippling. Make it muscular dystrophy. Anyone who can’t sympathize with a dystrophic kid is beyond redemption. He can’t get to the fair because he’s crippled. Do you understand?”

“I think so.”

“So he wants to see the boat. You can see the river from your house, and he’ll be watching tonight, and he wants to know when the boat will pass by and what it will look like, so he’ll know when he sees it. Got that?”

“I think so. I shall tell him we live at Point X-”

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