Tanner's Tiger Page 7

And I didn’t see her anywhere.

I called her name a few times and wandered around looking for her. She didn’t seem to be anywhere. I bucked the tide of tourists and worked my way back into the building and still couldn’t find her. It took me five minutes to locate an attendant and ask him about a little lost blonde girl.

“No hablo inglés,” he said.

I did not believe this at all. I repeated the question in Spanish and he shrugged limply and walked away. I went outside again. I investigated a row of hot dog stands and souvenir booths over to the right of the pavilion. Minna wasn’t there. I doubled back to the Cuban Pavilion restaurant and bar, thinking she might have followed part of the crowd there. The headwaiter wouldn’t let me in, insisting he didn’t have a table for me. I told him my problem and he smiled blandly and assured me that no little girl had come in all afternoon. I shoved him out of the way and looked for myself and couldn’t find her.

I went back to the line in front of the pavilion. I waited for fifteen minutes until the attendant let me into the building. I walked all the way through, looking for her everywhere. There was no false route she could have taken, no place she could have hidden herself. I left the pavilion again and walked around it three times, looking everywhere for her. No luck.

Minna was lost.

Chapter 5

I think the helicopter pilot was drunk. His eyes wandered in and out of focus, and he had a disconcerting habit of looking over his shoulder instead of paying much mind to where we were going. The network of capillaries around his nose further suggested a fondness for alcohol, as did the aroma of good Canadian whiskey that issued from him. All of this might have bothered me a good deal more if I hadn’t already been too bothered about Minna to pay much attention to him.

“Usually give people a full tour,” he was saying. “All the pavilions, the rides, give you the whole feel of the fair.”

“Just keep going around in circles.”

“Makes a person dizzy.”

“Ever-increasing concentric circles,” I said. “She went into the damned building and she isn’t in it now. Must have come out of it. Keep circling, she has to be here somewhere.”

“Dizzy,” he said, turning to me and gesturing with one hand. “Dizzy as a dean.”

I tried to ignore him. I wished he hadn’t kept mentioning dizziness; a helicopter is sufficiently disorienting when it moves in a straight line, and I was beginning to feel overcome by a well-nigh irresistible desire to vomit. I kept my eyes on the ground, amazed that there could be so many people down there without any of them being Minna.

She was usually very good about not getting lost or, failing that, at arranging to get found again. Now, whirling uncomfortably in the air, the helicopter’s propellers roaring madly overhead, I wondered if it might not have been a better idea to have kept both feet on the ground. It was the idiot Cubans who had made me blow my cool. Obviously Minna had simply wandered away. Given time and opportunity, she would wander back. But the staccato rattle of violence that the Cuban Pavilion projected had evidently left its mark on me. Even as I thought it all out, I couldn’t entirely dismiss the notion that something horrible had happened.

“She could be at the Lost and Found,” my pilot said.

“Where’s that?”

“Admission gates. People turn in glasses and umbrellas and binoculars and children. Always have a lot of kids there. You just go on down and pick out one that looks right to you.” I had to look at him to be certain he was joking. “The things they find. In the morning, you know, they sweep up at La Ronde, that’s where the amusements are, where the young kids hang out, why they’ll come up with a ton of bras and such. The whole world’s going around in circles. It makes a man dizzy.”

We banked wildly – I think he was gesturing with the helicopter as less mobile men do with their hands. I placed both of my own hands upon my stomach and coaxed it back into place.

“Took two kids up the other day, I don’t believe either of them was a day past sixteen, well, you won’t believe what went on in the back there. You know, I just took a peek to see what was going on” – he craned his head toward the rear of the craft, holding the copter on a collision course, aiming dead center at the top of the British Pavilion – “just took a peek, wouldn’t you know, and I decided to shake ’em up a little, have a little fun with them, see? So just as they’re going at it hot and heavy, you know kids, how they get all wrapped up in what they’re doing” – the idiot was still glancing reminiscently at the rear of the plane; the British Pavilion still loomed menacingly in front of us – “why, I just gave the wheel a wrench like this, do you see, just like this, and if that didn’t bounce them around some!”

And he gave the wheel a wrench, do you see, and we veered to starboard and missed the apex of the pavilion rather narrowly. I promptly threw up and didn’t even mind, deciding it was better than dying.

“I think we’d better go down,” I said.

“Now I’ve gone and made you ill. Clumsy of me.”

“If you could drop me near the Lost and Found-”

“Want to have another quick look around first? There’s time.”

“I don’t think so.”

Minna was one of the few children in the area who was not at the Lost amp; Found booth. The small frame structure overflowed with small boys and girls, who in turn overflowed with tears. All of this bedlam was presided over by a young woman with light blonde hair, freckles, and a look in her eyes that suggested that at any moment she might break under pressure and go stark raving mad. And it might have been fun to watch her do so. But while I was there she remained as brittly calm as a hurricane’s eye, holding a tissue to this nose, patting that head, cooing to one little wretch while inhibiting the vandalism of another. Had I been somewhat less distressed, I might have fallen in love with her.

“I’m sure your daughter will turn up,” she assured me. “They all do, you know. One after another.”

“One minute she was there,” I said, “and the next minute she wasn’t.”

“They’re like that.”


“And they almost always get here before the parents. That’s what’s so amazing. As if the parents don’t even notice they’re gone, oh, sometimes for hours.”

I didn’t think it was that amazing.

“There is a baby-sitting service, you know.” She wrinkled up her forehead. “Unless some of them feel guilty about actually abandoning their children, but once they’re lost, you know, then they want to take advantage of it! Do you think that could be it?”

“It’s possible.”

“So actually it’s rather unusual that you found your way here before your daughter. It doesn’t often happen that way.”

“Well, I took a helicopter.”

“Did you? Oh, my. You certainly are a conscientious father, aren’t you?” She separated two potential assassins, then sighed and brushed her hair out of her eyes. “Have you had her paged? You might do that.”

“Where do I go?”

“That tent over there, do you see it? I don’t suppose it’s audible for too great a distance, but one never knows what will work and what won’t. Stop, Betty. Stop!”

I went to the tent and had them page Minna Tanner, requesting her to report at once to the Lost amp; Found booth. During the next two hours they repeated the message perhaps a dozen times, during which time I learned that the girl at Lost amp; Found was named Myra Teale, that she came from Hamilton, Ontario, that she was a divorcee, and that she had no children. I suspected that it would be a very long time before she ever had children on purpose.

Throughout this stretch of time I remained generally anxious without doing too much out-and-out worrying. Anxiety is essentially a passive state that can be endured indefinitely – modern living very nearly demands as much – but actual worrying is far too active a process to be carried on for great stretches of time. I suspect, for example, that those people who insist they spend all of their time worrying about the bomb or pollution or mongrelization of the race or whatever are guilty, at the least, of semantic inaccuracy, if they are not genuine liars. No one can spend very much time worrying about the bomb; one either lives anxiously in its shadow or limps off to the land of Catalonia.

Hell. I spent two hours not exactly worrying about Minna, and not successfully paging her, before reaching two conclusions – that Minna was unlikely to appear at the Lost amp; Found booth, and that Myra Teale was far too harried to respond favorably to an offer of dinner, or some such. So, for that matter, was I.

Minna was more apt to take matters into her own hands than to run to form. The most likely place for her to turn up, I decided, was our hotel. While I had felt compelled to hunt for her, she would feel no similar compulsion to seek me out; instead, realist that she was, she would proceed at once to our room and wait, patiently or not, for me to rejoin her.

I left the fairgrounds, following the signs to Autobus 168, which would carry me back to downtown Mon- treal. The bus was rather less crowded than the Expo Express and less jolting than the helicopter. I got off at Dorchester Boulevard, took another bus several blocks eastward, and walked a short distance to my hotel.

I did all of this quite automatically, and without paying very much attention to what I was doing or where I was going or what was transpiring around me. I had to look for Minna at the hotel before I did anything else. Whatever happened afterward depended upon whether or not I found her there. Any number of other topics demanded my attention – the Cuban Pavilion, the course of action to be followed, even the eventual method of reentering the United States – but it was pointless to think about these things until I had returned to the hotel and found or not found Minna. So I didn’t think of them, and because it was no time for trivia, I did not think of anything else either. I walked and rode and walked with a sort of numb head, and found my hotel, and climbed the stairs, and knocked on the door to our room, and opened it, and found no Minna there.

I went downstairs to ask the landlady if she had been back, but the landlady did not seem to be present. I went outside and looked around, and saw no one I recognized, and went back to the room to wait. I was hungry and spent a few moments weighing my hunger against the likelihood of Minna’s returning while I was out eating. It was a few minutes before I thought to leave her a note – when I develop a numb brain, it stays numb for some time – but ultimately this did occur to me, and I began writing a note, and there was a knock at the door.

I jumped up, rushed to the door, yanked it open. I looked where Minna’s little blonde head should have been, and what I saw was a massive silver belt buckle. My eyes crawled upward, past a great expanse of red shirt to a firmly chiseled jaw, a hawk nose, a pair of ice-blue eyes, and a Smoky The Bear hat.

“Mr. Tanner-”

“What happened to her? Where is she?”

“Mr. Tanner, I’m Sergeant William Rowland of the Royal-”

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