Tanner's Tiger Page 31

I had forgotten what Ireland is like.

There was none of this. An official in a splendid green uniform took me aside and asked why we had made an unscheduled landing, and I explained very briefly what the Cubans had been doing and how we had dealt with the situation. He found the Cuban plot dastardly beyond belief, our action praiseworthy, Corrigan’s performance heroic, Arlette a charming young lady, and Minna a treasure. He talked to a few of the others, confirmed my story, and filled out special visa forms for all of us so that we could stay around Ireland as long as we wanted. He may have filed a report, but I would guess it was something he never got around to.

And that’s all.


Because no one made any noise. Ireland would have had to answer official inquiries from other nations, but there weren’t any. Havana certainly didn’t want to raise any static. They were out two guards, one pilot, one nurse, and one plane, and they could always hijack an airliner to even the score. They were hoping everyone would be very quiet about the whole thing.

Ottawa didn’t know what had happened. They knew that they wanted to get their hands on Evan M. Tanner, American, and Arlette Sazerac, Canadian, but they didn’t know we were in Ireland and would probably have rejoiced to learn we were out of Canada.

Washington probably didn’t know anything, either. And wouldn’t act unless forced to. And London was completely out of the picture. No one had the vaguest idea that there had been a plot to make Prince Philip a widower. As far as anyone knew, a batch of MNQ lunatics had made a successful attempt at dynamiting a fireworks barge. London cared as little about the affair as Modonoland.

I suppose you’re wondering why the Cubans were collecting Negroes, and how they got Minna, and all that. So was I. I pieced out the story on the plane and someday I will probably have to explain it to the Chief. I’m afraid he’ll think I’m putting him on.

Ready? They wanted to train American Negroes as revolutionaries to serve as shock troops in an eventual Black Revolution. I suppose the riots generated enough wishful thinking to get the plan approved. Their theory was that heavy indoctrination under the influence of drug therapy could turn any Negro, whatever his prior political outlook, into a Castro-oriented terrorist.

I don’t think they could have made it work, but who can tell? Pavlovian conditioning techniques have undergone considerable refinement of late, and so have drugs. Maybe they didn’t even expect it to work but felt that it was worth a try for research purposes.

In any event, they were using the pavilion to kidnap Negroes. They would select someone, steer him over to the sliding panel, and throw the switch. When he landed, a guard downstairs slapped a wad of chloroform over his nose and that was that. They had put in the wrist brackets and such when they built the place, but they never even bothered to use them.

Then, using drugs, they interrogated their prisoners to see which fish were keepers and which ones they had to throw back. If a person had a family who would miss him, back he went. If his health was such as to make him useless to them, he too was returned to the world outside. Only a small proportion wound up permanently installed in the concrete block building. The rest were released within a day of their capture. Since they had been in a constant stupor, they had virtually no memory of what had gone on during the captive period, and probably lost the memory of the few hours preceding capture as well. Short-term amnesia, not much different from an alcoholic blackout, was certainly no great cause for alarm.

How did Minna get into the act? She was in the wrong place at the wrong time, standing on the sliding panel just as a guard maneuvered a Negro onto it. This was by no means the first time this had happened. They caught quite a few Caucasians this way, kept them unconscious for a few hours, and released them unharmed. They would have done just this with Minna if the Royal Canadian Mounted Police hadn’t contrived to make a front-page figure out of me. Once I had achieved total notoriety, they were in a quandary. Minna was now important, and if they released her and she turned up, a lot of people would be very intent on finding out where she had been. Then, too, the Cubans knew me as a member of several militant refugee organizations, and may have planned to use her to put pressure on me. Whatever they had in mind, they found it more expedient to keep her drugged than to let her go. Then, when Arlette sent them into a state of pure panic, they wanted to get her out of the country along with everyone else.

Thanks to Corrigan, they didn’t make it.

And the Cubans wound up, all things considered, in almost as bad shape as they deserved. On our plane alone there were sixty-seven American Negroes ranging in hue from blue-black to stratospheric-yellow, in age from eleven to forty-eight, and in politics from conservative pillars of the black bourgeoisie to the most rabid of black nationalists, and every last one of them was positive of one thing – that Cuba was no friend of theirs.

There were other planes that had not taken the famous Corrigan detour, other Negroes who had gone to Havana already. They didn’t stay there long. Some of our passengers made phone calls to the States and some civil rights organizations sent discreet letters to the Cuban Embassy requesting the immediate return of the abductees. There was no public uproar. The threat was enough, and back they all came, slipped quietly into Mexico and smuggled carefully across the Rio Grande.

What else? That covers half my list – Minna and Assassination. The other two items will have to wait awhile.

Heroin? It’s still in that jacket. If I destroy it, the supply of heroin on the U.S. market will be stretched thin, and the price on the street will skyrocket, and the crime rate will soar, and a lot of poor junkies who have trouble enough already will be more up tight than ever.

Besides, the Union Corse knows how to hold a grudge. So it will have to go back to its wrongful owners. Still, it seems it ought to cost them a little. So when I get around to it, I’ll send a note to a friend of mine on Corsica, and he’ll set up a deal to sell the stuff back for a fraction of its value. Fraction or no, there should be enough money involved to make it interesting.

I’m in no hurry, though. Let ’em sweat a little.

Cops? I’m in even less of a hurry to clear that last point off the list. With the passage of time, Canadians and Americans alike should forget what an archcriminal I’ve been. I’ll have Jerzy Pryzeshweski withdraw his kidnap nonsense, and that should clear the situation in the States. If the Chief pulls a string or two, Canada won’t try to extradite me. They may never let me into the country. That’s fine.

So here we all are, Arlette and Minna and I, very comfortably ensconced in a couple of rooms in Lord Edward Street, in Dublin. It is so deliciously cold here that we light a coal fire on the hearth every night. It rains every day, a light, clean powdery rain. And the air is clean, and nobody is on strike, and there aren’t any riots, and no one ever comes to the door, and we don’t have a phone.

Arlette misses the tigerskin. It and the beret remain at her apartment, and it’s doubtful whether we’ll ever be able to recover them. Such skins, it seems, are extraordinarily expensive. Once we get the ransom money for the heroin, I’ll see what I can do.

In the meantime, she has purchased a blonde wig. I haven’t yet managed to turn up a Frankenstein mask, but we have hopes. Minna now speaks with the suggestion of a Dublin accent. She is learning Quebecois French from Arlette and wants to learn to speak Irish, but so far we haven’t run into anyone who knows how. She gets taken to the Dublin Zoo as often as she can manage it. Usually we get her to settle for a walk down to the River Liffey and a view of the gulls. I told her that if we stay here much longer, she will have to get a starched blue uniform and go to school every day. She didn’t even have the courtesy to pretend I was serious.

We see Seth and Randy now and then. They drop in for meals. Most of their time is spent haunting the campuses at Trinity College and the National University, convinced that there must be some way to obtain marijuana in Ireland. If there is, they’ll find it.

Corrigan flew home a week ago but as a passenger this time. The day he left, every Dublin newspaper covered the event and expressed the hope that he would return soon. I think he will; he enjoyed the city as much as it enjoyed him, which was considerably. The pubs hadn’t been so lively since Behan died.

I guess we’ll have to go back sooner or later. I must have a metric ton of mail at the Post Office by now. I’ll have to find out whether Annalya has presented me with a brother or a sister for Todor, and what name it has been given. I’ll also have to determine whether or not my friends in Africa have been eaten, and if so, by whom. And I will have to report to the Chief. I’d report to him right now, if I could. But that would contravene a key rule – I am never to attempt to make contact with him. Nor could I if I wanted to. I don’t know his name, or where he lives, or where he works, or much of anything about him.

And he can’t get in touch with me, because he doesn’t know where I am.

I hope nobody tells him.


Evan Michael Tanner was conceived in the summer of 1956, in New York’s Washington Square Park. But his gestation period ran to a decade.

That summer was my first stay in New York, and what a wonder it was. After a year at Antioch College, I was spending three months in the mailroom at Pines Publications, as part of the school’s work-study program. I shared an apartment on Barrow Street with a couple of other students, and I spent all my time – except for the forty weekly hours my job claimed – hanging out in the Village. Every Sunday afternoon I went to Washington Square, where a couple of hundred people gathered to sing folk songs around the fountain. I spent evenings in coffeehouses, or at somebody’s apartment.

What an astonishing variety of people I met! Back home in Buffalo, people had run the gamut from A to B. (The ones I knew, that is. Buffalo, I found out later, was a pretty rich human landscape, but I didn’t have a clue at the time.)

But in the Village I met socialists and monarchists and Welsh nationalists and Catholic anarchists and, oh, no end of exotics. I met people who worked and people who found other ways of making a living, some of them legal. And I soaked all this up for three months and went back to school, and a year later I started selling stories and dropped out of college to take a job at a literary agency. Then I went back to school and then I dropped out again, and ever since I’ve been writing books, which is to say I’ve found a legal way of making a living without working.

Where’s Tanner in all this?

Hovering, I suspect, somewhere on the edge of thought. And then in 1962, I was back in Buffalo with a wife and a daughter and another daughter on the way, and two facts, apparently unrelated, came to my attention, one right after the other.

Fact One: It is apparently possible for certain rare individuals to live without sleep.

Fact Two: Two hundred fifty years after the death of Queen Anne, the last reigning monarch of the House of Stuart, there was still (in the unlikely person of a German princeling) a Stuart pretender to the English throne.

I picked up the first fact in an article on sleep in Time Magazine, the second while browsing the Encyclopedia Britannica. They seemed to go together, and I found myself thinking of a character whose sleep center had been destroyed, and who consequently had an extra eight hours in the day to contend with. What would he do with the extra time? Well, he could learn languages. And what passion would drive him? Why, he’d be plotting and scheming to oust Betty Battenberg, the Hanoverian usurper, and restore the Stuarts to their rightful place on the throne of England.

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