Tanner's Tiger Page 23

“Don’t do that. Forget Point X, please.” I stabbed a finger at the map. “Tell him you live about here, figure out something that fits. You know the city better than I do. But find out those two things, what the boat will look like and when to expect it. If we know when it will get here, we can figure out the rest of the timing pretty well.”

“All right. My crippled brother has musical atrophy and cannot go to Expo, and he wishes to see the boat, and…”

We went through the story until she had it as well as she ever would, and then I wrote out the address of Link-Wright Shipping and sent her on her way. The story hadn’t struck me as particularly brilliant when I thought of it, and the more I heard it, the less I liked it, but I felt she could probably pull it off. I made her fix her makeup and splash on a little perfume before she left. With all of that sex going for her, I didn’t think she would have much trouble. They would probably give her an 8-by-10 glossy of the boat and an invitation to dine at the captain’s table.

While she was off charming them at Link-Wright I worked on her phony ID. I still had that silly Expo passport, and one of the pages for visa stamps was still blank. It was just the right sort of paper, with all of those swirly lines in it that suggest all the trappings of bureaucracy. I removed the page and cut out a neat rectangle about 2½" by 4" and popped it into Arlette’s portable typewriter. Then I checked the page I’d practiced on earlier. It’s not easy to make a typewriter produce something that looks as though it were printed. A varitype machine will do a good job, and an electric is fair, but all she had was a rickety portable. At least I had fixed things so that the lines more or less came out the same length. I certainly wasn’t going to create something equal to my beautiful forged passport (which I could probably forget forever now, its having been left behind in our hotel room); but if things went well, the ID would get little more than a quick glance in a dark room, and it might stand up under those conditions.

What I typed was:
Tanner's Tiger

I shifted the slip so that it was slightly off-center and, using a lighter touch, typed in Suzanne Lafitte on the proper line. I used a ball-point pen to sign J. B. Westley’s name on yet another line. I studied the result and decided that it lacked something. Maybe a little sketch of a maple leaf in one corner…

I practiced drawing maple leaves on some scrap paper, and they all came out looking more like palm trees. So I let that go until Arlette came back with a description of the boat, an estimate of its time of arrival at her mythical residence, and a seemingly endless story about the truly charming men she had met at Link-Wright Shipping.

I figured out the probable time differential between her fabled home and Point X and came up with a half-educated guess that it would reach the target area around twenty to eight. I couldn’t decide whether that was good or bad. It meant that it would be in position quite a few minutes before Emile and his friends expected to get the game started, which was bad, but it also meant that we had a little margin for error, and that Seth and Randy wouldn’t have to delay the Queen quite so long. I decided that the good outweighed the bad, and then I decided that we were going to play it the same way no matter what, so the hell with it. I showed her my little paper creation and she stared at it, read it, turned it over, studied its back, turned it over again, peered closely at the Westley signature, and asked me what it was.

“Your identification.”

“I do not understand. Who is this Westley? And this Suzanne, this Mademoiselle Lafitte, who is she?”

“She’s you,” I said. “Don’t worry about it, I’ll explain it later. I want you to practice writing Suzanne Lafitte. Go ahead.”

She wrote it a few times and I looked it over. I just wanted to make sure she could do it without misspelling it. Then I had her sign the card. I had pressed down harder with the pen when I wrote Westley’s name, so it looked as though two different pens had been used.

“Perfect,” I said. “Now I’ll need a very tiny photo of you. Do you have one?”

She found some snapshots, but they all had scenery in the background. I sent her on her way again, telling her to get her picture taken at one of the 4-Poses-For-25¢ booths at the Dorchester Boulevard bus terminal. She brought back four ghastly poses that looked enough unlike her to be official, along with the things I had told her to buy – a stamp pad, a rubber stamp that would print any number from 0000001 to 9999999, a tube of rubber cement, a packet of razor blades, and a large red leatherette photo album.

“Perfect,” I said. “Perfect.”

She didn’t say a word, bless her heart. She watched in silence as I trimmed one of the photos to the size of the space on the card and glued it carefully in place. I set the rubber stamp at 8839970 and stamped the card twice, once below the Suzanne Lafitte signature and once along the left-hand edge. (The number was one I selected apparently at random, but I happen to remember it now because I later realized that it was the number of “Hector’s Lounge,” which started all of this mess. Make of this what you will.)

The stamp pad also served to get Arlette’s fingerprint impressed in the proper square. Her right thumbprint, to be precise. We tried it four times on scrap paper before I got the hang of it. It seemed to work best if I held her thumb and pressed it to the paper myself, and that was how we finally did it.

Then I looted the photo album. I removed the insides and cut the cover open. The leatherette was wrapped around a sheet of very thick cardboard. I cut out a pair of 5 by 7 cardboard rectangles, then cut out a large piece of leatherette and glued the cardboard chunks to it, one above the other. Then I glued the card in place on the lower section of cardboard.

It looked phony as hell to me. The typing was the main problem – it gave the whole thing a homemade look. My Croat Nationalist friend in New York would have been disgusted with it. The Armenian genius in Athens would have thrown up either his hands or his dinner at the sight of it. I almost said this aloud, then decided against it. Arlette was going to have to use the damned thing, and it was pointless to destroy her confidence in it.

I moistened my hands and smudged it a little in strategic spots. Then I cut out a piece of acetate from the leaves of the photo album and cemented it into place over the card. At least I tried to; the rubber cement wouldn’t bond the plastic. I had to send Arlette out for some plastic cement before I could get it to work.

By the time I had trimmed the leatherette and performed the final gluing operations, it really didn’t look so bad after all. The final product was a purse-sized red leather case that opened up to reveal an ID card complete with photo and thumbprint and signature. It did look like credentials of some sort, and there was no fear that some clown would compare it with the genuine article. Because as far as I knew, there was no Department of Public Security, no Foreign National Section, no Dominion Secrets Act (1954), no J. B. Westley, Int. Director, and no Suzanne Lafitte.

“I think it’ll do,” I said. “How does it look to you?”

“Formidable. I do not understand.”

“You’ll understand when the time comes.”

“But how is this to prevent the assassination? I cannot show this to Claude or Jean or Jacques or Emile. They have known me for too long, Evan. They would never believe that I am this Mademoiselle Lafitte. They know that I am Arlette Sazerac, they know that I am a faithful allegiant of the Mouvement National de Québec.” She frowned suddenly. “I was a faithful allegiant. Now suddenly I am a traitor.”

“You are a true patriot. You are doing what is best for the movement.”

“It is so. It must be so.” She touched my arm. “But you have not explained! How is this, this false identification, this Lafitte, how is it to prevent the assassination?”

“That’s not what it’s for. It’s to rescue Minna from the Cubans.”

“I do not understand.” She furrowed her brow, trying desperately to think. “How is it possible to do everything at once?”

I thought of my Mickey Mouse list. Minna, assas-sination, heroin, cops. I had a variation on the time-tested formula. You listed all your chores in order, and then you killed some time and smoked some pot, and then you took a deep breath and a giant step and did everything at once.

“How?” she still wanted to know.

“I’ll tell you later,” I lied. I looked at the clock; it was past noon already. “There’s no time now, cherished one. There are things that must be done at once. There is a man at the fairgrounds, you will have to seek him out and make contact with him. And I will need some preparations to disguise myself, some cosmetics, a variety of articles. I will be going outside while it is still light out, and it would not be good if I were arrested-”

“It would be a disaster!”

“I agree. Put the ID down, that’s a good girl. Now let me see what you ought to do first…”

What she did first was make the rounds of the neighborhood tobacconists, buying three or four plastic roll-up tobacco pouches at each shop. (This was not done for the sake of subtlety; I didn’t really care what some tobacconist might think if she bought twenty pouches from him. She bought only three or four in each shop because nobody had more than that on hand.) She came right back with them, and while she was off on another errand I parceled out the three cans of heroin into the twenty pouches. When I was all done, I had about a tablespoonful left over, and I spent longer than I care to admit brooding about it before realizing that the world could live without it. I flushed it down the toilet. Junkies are crawling up walls in Harlem, said a voice deep within my brain, and you flush heroin down the toilet. Children are starving in India and you didn’t finish your Brussels sprouts. Families are starving in Brussels and you didn’t finish your Indian summer. Old people are starving in Sumatra and you didn’t finish your winter wheat. Arlette is starving for affection and you didn’t make love to her in the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this son of Yorktown ladies sing this song, doo dah, doo dah –

I raced into the bathroom and stood under the shower. Doo dah, doo dah. I let the cold water pound down on my head until the little voice in there stopped yammering. I wondered how much the heroin I had flushed away was worth, and I wondered why I was wondering about something that irrelevant, and I decided I hadn’t spent enough time under the shower. I soaked my head a little longer and let everything calm down. Just a spoonful of powder makes the Madison go round, the moccasin go brown, the Mattachine go down, just a spoonful – More cold water and a brisk rub with a towel.

My disguise was a major problem. Ideally I needed one that I could switch on and off at will, so that I could avoid being recognized while I was out in the open without looking like a stranger when I joined the assassination party at Point X. I kept getting ideas toward this end, and they kept not working. I would send Arlette out for something new – now a wig, now a monster Halloween mask, now this and now that – but the conveniently removable disguises all had one thing in common. They looked like disguises, and policemen are apt to take an interest in people who look disguised.

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