Tanner's Tiger Page 27

I didn’t tell him about the casualties in my area of the operation. Claude, Emile, and whoever had the ill luck to be on the fireworks barge. Figuring a four-man crew, I had helped create six martyrs to the cause of Free Quebec. And only two of them were voluntary ones.

“The pilot’s with Seth and Arlette,” Randy told me. “They’re waiting for us. You ready?”

“I guess so. How do I look?”

“I wouldn’t have too much trouble picking you out of a crowd.”

“Oh,” I said. “The hell with it. Let’s go.”

The helicopter pilot was standing with Seth and Arlette a few yards off to the side of the Lost amp; Found booth. His eyes were even more bloodshot than I remembered and his breath smelled inflammable. He had a hand resting in absentminded fashion upon Arlette’s bottom, and his eyes were focused – well, aimed, anyway – at Myra Teale, who was still riding shotgun on a batch of purposely lost children. He turned to me, hiccuped, and grinned.

“We meet again,” he said. “The fellow who was sick all over my little chopper. Got a haircut since, did you?”

“Uh,” I said.

“The chopper’s resting over that way. Shall we go to it?”

“That might be a good idea.”

“Do you know, I think it would be.” He slapped me heartily on the back. “You wouldn’t want anyone to have too good a look at you, would you, my friend?”


“Leading them the devil of a chase, aren’t you, Mr. Tanner? Oh, don’t worry about me. The little mam’selle here said something about five hundred dollars-”

“That’s right.”

“-and for five hundred dollars I’d fly through a forest fire on the back of a chicken hawk. You don’t have to worry about me.”

“I’m glad to hear that, Mr.-”

“Mr. Completely,” he said, and laughed vacantly. “Missed her completely, that is, that’s what we did. Your little girl, isn’t it? And you want to fly over that same ridiculous building again, is that so? And hop the border to the States when you find her?”

“More or less.”

“I’m your man. No doubt about it.” His Canadian accent made that come out No doat aboat it.

He led and we followed. I told him that Seth and Randy and I would be flying with him in the chopper for the time being, and he assigned places to the three of us. Arlette wanted to know where she was going to sit and I told her she wasn’t.

“I do not understand,” she said.

I took a deep breath. I had been saving this for the last minute, because if she had time to think about it, she would not possibly go through with it.

“You’re not coming with us,” I told her. “You have a special job to do. You will carry this in your purse” – I tucked the false ID into her bag – “and you will fasten this in your hair” – I clipped the little microphone into her hair – “and you will go to the Cuban Pavilion and enter the dungeon. You will stand where we stood before, and when no one is looking, you will throw the switch on the end and drop through to the dungeon below.”

She gaped at me. I rushed right on, not giving her a chance to interrupt. “They won’t dare hurt you because they’ll know you’re a Canadian agent. What they’ll do is panic. They’ll want to get you out of there, and they’ll want to do something with all the prisoners they’ve taken in the past little while. I’m almost positive they ship batches of them out of the country, or to some hiding place up in the north. As soon as they think the government is on to them, they’ll make a run for it. They’ll take you out of the dungeon and rendezvous with the other prisoners, and I’ll have this” – I showed her the receiving unit – “so we can trace you in the helicopter. We’ll wait until they lead us straight to Minna and the others. Then we’ll rescue you and Minna, and the helicopter will get us all the hell out of there.”

She bought it. Maybe the example of courage set by Emile and Claude was contagious. Maybe she was too simple to think it through and realize what a risk she was running. Maybe, as I prefer to think, she was just a very good girl. Whatever the reason, she bought it.

“When shall I go to the pavilion?”

“Right away.”

“I shall do it. May I kiss you first? And the boys?” She kissed all three of us, then kissed the pilot, too. “You will hear me with this thing, is it not so? And you will rescue me?”


We stayed in the helicopter with the engines off while she made her way onto the Expo Express and out to the Cuban Pavilion on the Ile de Notre Dame. I listened to the receiver and had no trouble telling where she was. Everything came through clear as a bell. Now and then she would talk to me, and once she expressed aloud the fervent wish that she could hear me as well as speak to me, if only to assure herself that the equipment worked.

“I am at the pavilion,” she said ultimately. “There is not too long a line. It should take me but a few minutes. Evan, which is the switch that I must throw? I cannot remember.”

“The one on the right,” I said aloud. As if she could hear me.

“As if you could answer me. It is all right. I will throw them all at once.”

“Oh, God,” I said. As if He were listening.

I told the pilot – damn it, I still didn’t know his name – to start the engines. He did, and I leaped from my seat and grabbed his arm. “Off!” I shouted. “My God, they’re noisy!”

“Can’t fly without ’em, Mr. Tanner.”

“But I can’t hear over them.” He cut them out, and I listened again to Arlette. I wondered if people had noticed that she was talking to herself. I suppose she wasn’t speaking in much more than a whisper, but she came through loud and clear.

With the engines off, that is. With them on, I couldn’t hear a thing. If the fool thing had come with earphones, we would have been all right, but it didn’t. I told the pilot to leave the engines off until we had a particular reason to start flying. For the moment, it was more important to maintain communication with Arlette.

Seth wondered aloud how we would be able to follow her in the copter if we couldn’t hear her. The same thought had already occurred to me. I said we would have to pick them up with aerial reconnaissance when they left the building and keep them under constant visual observation. Randy wanted to know if that wasn’t risky. I asked him if he had a better idea, and he said he didn’t. Neither did anyone else.

All we had to do was lose them. That would be the payoff, all right – we would scare them into skipping the country with all the prisoners, Minna and Arlette included. And then we would lose them, and that would be the last I would see of either of them.

Arlette’s voice, just a whisper: “I am within the building. There is a guard, I must wait until he goes away. He is not looking at me now. Did you say the switch on the left? I will throw them all, now-”

Then there was a lot of noise, all at once, shouts in Spanish and English and other languages, machinery noises. And then, over it all, Arlette’s voice ringing out: “In the name of J. B. Westley and the Dominion of Canada you are all under arrest! In the name-”

Halfway through the sentence some of the background noise stopped, as if the aperture leading from the dungeon to the first floor had been closed again. And then there was a sort of thunk, and Arlette stopped talking. I heard an excited babble of Cuban Spanish but couldn’t make out the words.

“What happened, man?”

“I think they knocked her out.”

“The poor chick-”


I hoped they hadn’t hurt her. As I saw it, she was well out of it; a bump on the head would be a small price to pay for an hour or so of unconsciousness. From our standpoint, it was both good and bad. She would be unable to tell me what was happening, but she would be equally incapable of answering any questions the Cubans might put to her.

I concentrated on the Spanish. “They’re going through her purse,” I said. “They found her ID card. They’re reading it. I hope the lighting down there is terrible… They believe the ID. One of them just told the other that she’s a Canadian agent.”

“Is she all right, Evan?”

“Just a minute. I think she must be coming to, because one just said they should chloroform her at once. That’s good, that’s damned good. She couldn’t have been badly hurt, and the chloroform won’t hurt her now. It’ll just keep her out. If she were awake now, she’d be terrified-”

“Do you blame her?”

“No, not a bit. This way she’ll sleep. Oh, hell!”


“They found the bug in her hair. Damn it, they know what it is. I wonder if-”

A loud, ear-splitting noise came through the receiver, followed by absolute silence.

“They smashed it,” I announced. I tossed the useless receiver to the floor of the copter. “They smashed hell out of it. Better start the engines. There’s nothing to listen to anyway, not now. And we ought to get over toward the Cuban place right away.” I swallowed. “They’ll probably wait until the fair closes before they move her. But what if they don’t? If they move out before we get into position…”

The prop spun, the engines caught. They drowned out the rest of my sentence, but that didn’t matter. Everyone knew the ending.

Chapter 18

As our pilot pointed out, it wouldn’t be fitting to hover permanently in the air over the Cuban Pavilion. Helicopters buzzing to and fro were a common enough sight at Expo, but helicopters on stakeout duty might draw stares. We worked out a pattern of lazy, looping circles, dipping here, rising there, but contriving to keep the Cuban building constantly in view. Our pilot came up with a small pair of binoculars, and I kept them trained on the pavilion as well as I could. I wished I had thought to bring Claude’s field glasses along. These were less powerful and spotlighted a smaller field.

The pilot was giving us a surprisingly smooth flight, and I found myself almost relaxed. From time to time the memory of our near miss of the British Pavilion would set my nerves on end, but by and large the ride was far less harrowing than thoughts of what would happen if we missed them.

This watching and waiting was a pain in the ass. It seemed I’d been doing a lot of it lately. Sitting endlessly around the apartment while Arlette ran errands, crouching interminably on the crest of the hill waiting for the fireworks barge, and now circling eternally around the Cuban Pavilion waiting for-

Waiting for what? For a whole lot of people to leave it, and to do so in a secretive manner.

The pilot began shouting something. I couldn’t understand him at first, then realized he was offering me a drink. I wondered how it might affect me. The little voice in my head still blurted out some fool thing every once in a while, and I didn’t know whether liquor would oil its tongue or rust it. I decided to find out and accepted the bottle of McNaughton’s, tilted it, and let a gratifying quantity leap straight for my liver. The pilot gestured at the boys and I passed the bottle their way. When they sent it back, I returned it to the pilot and watched him pour an impossible amount down his throat. He didn’t even swallow, just tucked in his glottis and poured it down the pipe.

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