ONE HUNDRED HOURS ON DES RECOLLETS STREET
When time ran out the French Canadian lay dead and the Englishman went free. It was business as usual
From his new, non-fiction novel
Premier Duplessis, that Boss Tweed of Quebec, could rise from the dead and walk along the streets of French Montreal in his grey grave pallor and know his city had not changed. Look into these stores. Elsewhere the window dresser’s homosexual chic may have transformed store windows into fantasy rooms where price and sale are rarely mentioned. But to stare into the windows of these streets is to see into the lives of the French poor who shop there: all is cheap, all is gaudy, all is old-fashioned. There are plastic flowers and imitation mahogany sideboards and shiny bedroom suites and strangely lape lied men's suits of cheap fabric: Mode Géométrique. It is a street where the barbershops have last year’s Christmas cards still in the display window beside the poster — Wrestling-Catch — of two years’ vintage. It is a street of Peoples Credit Jewellers, and
Bagues de Mariage et Fiançailles; it is Caisse Populaire banks on the corner, and the one building which has size, stature, and some sense of greystone grandeur is, you can be certain, called The Church of the Sacré Cœur, or Visitation, or St. Jean Baptiste. The food stores are crammed with cheap comestibles, with specials on beer and ground chuck. There are restaurants: they sell pizza and Chiens Chauds Stimés and Les Hamburgers, everything ticketed in that special dogsbody language which results when French Canadians literally translate from the English or the American. And, above all, there are the special playthings of this harsh land: cheap wooden hockey sticks, skates and ski boots,
selling now at third and fourth hand. Toy stores with windows filled with cardboard games and plastic dolls, all of these things so strangely old-fashioned that it is a shock to notice that the toy airplane hanging on a thread is a model of the supersonic Concorde. The toys are made in Japan, the United States and England, but what Japanese or American or English child can one see playing with these ghost playthings?
Above all, these streets cry family: weddings, funerals, confirmation dresses, layettes, anniversaries, birthdays, remembrance cards. There is no sign of the rat filth of other big cities: no skid-row midday cowboys lie in doorways or lurch in mindless anger down these snow-slush pavements. Dirt, yes, but mostly it is something other than dirt: it is cheapness, always cheapness: it is the obverse of beauty, the paradigm of those pinched lives for the blessing of which generations of French Canadians were told by their clergy to give thanks to God, told by their rulers, Duplessis, Taschereau, Godbout — yes, told by these, their own politicians, to be grateful for the bounty brought them by the party in power.
All of them accepted these streets, accepted this mean
little life down here in the shadow of the mountain, below the big English mansions, accepted this white-nigger slum, this nous autres existence.
The men who kidnapped James (Jasper) Cross would not. In this dormitory of cheap labor were congregated the human statistics of these young men’s rage. Forty percent of Canada’s unemployed live in Quebec, a vast province, almost twice as big as Texas, but still, in population, providing only one quarter of the country’s total labor force. The great majority of these unemployed are French. Half of them are less than 25 years old.
He was a Mountie. Those big boy scouts in scarlet tunics charging around Madison Square Garden on their Musical
Ride were something else. Horse to him was heroin, and in the drug world when they said, “Horseman coming,” it was time to get a transfer to another division. It had happened to him after four years and two big cases. Now they’d moved him back to Montreal where he was born, to C Division, as a constable, first class. He was French Canadian, married and 27 years old. He was five feet nine inches tall, but looked shorter. He was proud of the fact that he could kill a man with his hands. For this job he dressed semihippie with his hair long, but, if you asked him, hippies stank, they were “pseudointellectuals,” which meant some type of Communist.
Combined Anti - Terrorist Squad they called this outfit, which was a laugh when you think those Montreal cops didn’t even inform the RCMP when they raided that apartment in Queen Mary Road and let the suspects get away. If you asked him, it was suicide to mix undercover squads: the difference between the RCMP and these local cops was Cadillacs and Fords. Still, cooperation was the good word now. He was a constable. The commissioner made the rules.
He and his partner had been on this case since the week James Cross disappeared. The inspector put them onto the Jacques Lanctôt connection. They went at it like family historians — interviews, interviews, finding out who was related to who and who knew who on the chessboard. They knew from the start that Lanctôt had a young wife, Suzanne, and that she was seven or eight months in the family way and that she wasn’t around any more. And that she had a kid, Boris, 18 months old, who also wasn’t around.
Then they scored: a casual remark by a certain person led to a woman who was baby-sitting with a kid full time and who knew the Lanctôts. He and his partner kept away but set up a stakeout. On the second day she came out with the kid and she called the kid Boris! Three days later she
dressed the kid up and took it to the park, to a place she hadn’t been before. A pretty and pregnant girl showed up, played with the kid, kissed it and hugged it. When the girl left she said good-bye to the baby-sitter and the kid. His partner went after the baby-sitter. He followed the girl.
She went to an East End apartment where some hippie chicks lived. Stayed three days, and then, on the third afternoon, went back to the park. The baby-sitter showed up with the kid and he and his partner had a chance to say hello again. When they left the park, they split as before. He went after the girl.
This time she took the subway up to Montreal North, then went way out, by bus. He followed her to an apartment building on Des Récollets Street. There were three apartments in the two-story building. He didn’t see which one she went into.
It was a quiet street, dangerous for his kind qf work, a place where the neighbors noticed strangers. He called the sergeant at 22:00 hours and a relief came for the night. The girl stayed inside all night. Next morning Division assigned four extra men and told them to stay with it. Trained men, his kind of squad, guys who could watch and not be seen, who could ask questions without asking them, if you know what I mean.
He was in charge. After a couple of days he went to Division to report. Told Division there was an older couple with a couple of young children living in one of the topfloor apartments. The was a school-crossing guard.
They saw him go out every morning with a STOP sign under his arm. The other top-floor tenants seemed straight, too. The man had a federal job.
The tenants in the big downstairs apartment were something else. They had moved in two months ago; a neighbor said there were three young men and a girl, semi-hippie types. No, the girl wasn’t pregnant. The landlord said they paid their rent on time, were very quiet. A man and wife, he said. He thought he had seen a pregnant girl there once just after they moved in, when he went up
to the building one night to fix a faulty basement light.
The suspects had a car. Kids who lived on a street always knew about things like that. They had an old beat-up Chrysler, some kind of greyish color, used to be parked outside all the time. The little kids hadn’t seen it in the past couple of weeks. Which made sense. If they had Cross in there, the car would be kept in the garage, in case they had to get him out in a hurry.
There were other things to report. The tenants of 10945 did not work at regular jobs. They went out at odd times — late evening, early morning, usually to get food and always to buy newspapers. A big kid, straight-looking, wearing thicklensed spectacles, went out several times to make phone calls. Another couple bought food and newspapers, a young couple who looked as if they might be making it with each other.
On November 26, the sergeant sent for him. Told him that St. Pierre, the Quebec Provincial Police boss, had just had a meeting with the RCMP assistant commissioner in charge of C Division. There were so many people to tail on this lead, the RCMP had been authorized to bring in 12 more surveillance men from Ottawa. “So there you are,” the sergeant said. “They feel this one is important.”
The sergeant sent him up to see the inspector. The inspector said they’d need a room opposite the building. “We’re in luck,” the inspector said. It seemed that living right opposite was a guy who was an instructor at St. Vincent de Paul Penitentiary. He had been asked for cooperation. It was given.
That evening he and his team moved into an upstairs
bedroom in the penitentiary employee’s house, across the street from the suspects. They had walkie-talkies, movie and still cameras, and a perfect view of the suspect apartment. Anybody who went in or out now, all he had to do was get on the phone and a man from the new Ottawa detail would follow them. That afternoon two of them went out and only one came back. Lanctôt’s wife left at 16:10 carrying a small suitcase. She went to the East End apartment building where she stayed when he first tailed her himself. She stayed all night.
The other one who went out that afternoon took off at 16:38. He was the young guy who usually went shopping with the other chick. When he went out he was tailed by a man from the Ottawa squad.
“Why can’t I go with you?” she asked.
Cossette-Trudel, whom they called C-T, did not answer.
“Well, why can’t I?”
“B-because it’s risky,” he said in his schoolboy stammer.
“So,” his wife replied, “it’s more risky to go downtown with you than to sit here like a rat in a trap with Cross? I don’t understand your logic.”
“Good-bye,” he said. “Take care of yourself. T-try to have a nap this evening.”
She did not answer. He went into the kitchen. Jacques Lanctôt and Marc Carbonneau had the tape all wrapped up and ready to go. The four of them had spent this afternoon making the tape. They had sat around the tape recorder,
talking, taking turns, careful not to say anything which would give away where they were, or who they were, or implicate others.
Jacques Lanctôt was slender, handsome, but did not look radical. He was a cabdriver and might be taken for one. Marc Carbonneau was a small man. The WANTED posters were describing him as being only five feet five inches tall and weighing 145 pounds. He habitually wore cheap, short-sleeved, open-necked sports shirts, Ban-Lon sweaters, department store basement slacks and Hush
Puppy loafers with cushion insoles for his tired feet. For many years he had cultivated a pencil-thin moustache on his long upper lip. The moustache was fuller now, in an effort to emulate the revolutionary élan of the more hirsute Cuban guerrilleros. But Marc was still the last man an Anti-Terrorist Squad policeman might eye in a crowd. He could be a shortorder cook, perhaps, or a waiter. They had run the tape back twice, listening to their own voices declaiming against the system, explaining why they kidnapped Cross, saying that Washington gave all the orders to Trudeau and had forbidden him to deal with them. Listening to it, C-T decided it was puerile: it was what happened when you got workingmen like Lanctôt and Marc in front of a mike. It sounded like a street-corner political stump speech.
But try telling that to Lanctôt and Marc. They wanted him to give this tape to Alain, a contact who would run off another copy. One was to be taken tonight to Québec-Presse, one to the weekly magazine Choc. They hoped that, with a prize like this — the true voices of the Cross kidnappers — the tabloids and radio stations wouldn’t be able to resist using it despite the ban imposed by the government. “Unless we get our message to the public again, we could sit here with Cross forever,” Marc said. But C-T wondered if this cheap imitation of a television talk show was going to do it. He thought not.
Like Marc and Jacques, C-T had seen the movie Battle Of Algiers three, four times. But he was different. C-T was a college type; he liked discussing the “mass media” and rating Trudeau as a television performer. Jacques frowned:
the difference between me and C-T, he thought, is that when Í went to that place where they had the guitars, that coffeeespresso club, I put on my best clothes, my Sunday suit. He put on blue jeans and a crappy, dirty shirt; he plays at being poor; jeans and a dirty shirt, those are working clothes for me.
Jacques Lanctôt handed C-T the package. “Remember,” he said. “Tell Alain we’ll phone tomorrow to see if he was able to deliver an extra tape.”
When he went into the hall, she was waiting. “Why can’t you let me come with you?”
“Because I’m going to a t-tavern. No women allowed.”
This new tip was from the Montreal Police Department so the RCMP sergeant was skeptical. The Montreal police were so hungry for glory, he couldn’t see them giving a real lead to another force. Still, cooperation was the word. As they said, the commissioner made the rules, not him. For three days they had been following it up. It was supposed to have connections with Lanctôt’s sister and her husband, a guy called Cossette-Trudel. One suspect led to another. It could go on forever. In a case like this, where you weren’t dealing with ordinary criminals, who knew when to quit?
But tonight, just when he was thinking about turning in a negative report, suddenly something clicked. One of his surveillance men phoned at 21:30. “I have a problem,” he said. “I’m in the Boucheron Tavern with my suspect and he’s met someone. I heard them talk
about getting a message to QuébecPresse. Do you want to put a tail on the new contact?”
“What does he look like?” the sergeant asked.
The constable gave a description.
“A black windbreaker?” The sergeant said. “And he has suede boots? Hold on a minute.”
He checked his notes. He felt like he had won a very big hand at poker.
“Okay,” he said, “hang loose. Call me in 10 minutes.”
The surveillance man from Des Récollets Street had phoned 10 minutes earlier. His suspect was in the Boucheron Tavern. The suspect was wearing a black windbreaker and suede boots. The sergeant turned to another file, smiling, despite himself. By Jesus, he thought, now I know who this guy is!
When C-T returned to Des Récollets that evening he reported that Alain had not only made an extra tape, but that both were to be delivered to the tabloids.
“Now, we’ll have to wait till Sunday,” he said. “Alain said the daily newspapers are scared to print anything.”
“What about radio, does Alain think they might broadcast it?” Jacques Lanctôt asked.
“Not a chance.”
“I don’t see why not.”
“They’d lose their licenses,” C-T said. “They’re c-capitalistic enterprises, Jacques. Don’t f-forget the only reason they give us publicity is to sell advertising.”
Next morning the telephone rang in the observation post. It was the sergeant.
“Send a man down to the checkpoint,” he said. “We’ve got something for you. We found the foreman who worked on that building you're watching. He gave us the name of the architect. Now we’ve got a floor plan.”
Sunday, November 29: “Well?” Jacques Lanctôt said, as Yves Langlois came in. He was sitting waiting, in the
living room, his left foot jiggling in an autonomous way, as though he had some sort of involuntary muscular tic.
“Nothing at all?”
“Here you are, Québec-Presse. Choc. All the other Sundays. And the New York Times and Toronto Star. Nothing.”
“Marc?” Jacques called. “Come in here, will you?”
Marc came in. “Nothing in the papers?” he said.
“That means there won’t be anything on television or radio.”
“Okay, what are we going to do?” Jacques Lanctôt said. His foot jiggled. His voice was louder than normal. “Trudeau’s cut off any chance we had of reaching the people of Quebec, he’s radicalized the situation by bringing in these war measures, these troops, it’s fascism, it’s silencing all opposition, and I’ll tell you he’s doing it because he’s afraid! He’s afraid because we’ve already had a victory. Getting our manifesto on television, that was our victory, reaching into the homes of the ordinary people, that’s why he’s arrested these intellectuals and union leaders, Robert Lemieux, people like that!”
He stopped, out of breath. Marc looked at Yves.
“Yes, Jacques, yes,” Yves said. “You’re right. But as you said: the point is what are we going to do?”
When the inspector arrived at Division, the front desk
told him the assistant commissioner was already in the building. The chief inspector’s car would be here any minute; it had already left Sûreté headquarters on Parthenais Street. On his way up to his office, the inspector saw four or five Sûreté inspectors hanging about, middleaged men, overweight, in olive - green paramilitary uniforms, self - consciously pulling on and off their black-leather dress gloves. Most of them were oldtimers, political appointees from the Duplessis graft days. The Provincials ran Quebec: to them this building was for-
eign territory and the Mounties the Opposition.
When the chief inspector arrived, the inspector was waiting. They went into the chief inspector’s office. The inspector mentioned last night’s foul-up.
“Yes, I heard something or other,” the chief inspector said. “What is the story?”
The inspector explained. Tuesday afternoon, December 1, his men, in the observation post across the street, saw a Montreal North Police Department cruiser drive up and stop outside the suspect building. Two constables jumped out of the car and ran upstairs to the apartment of the schoolcrossing guard which an RCMP surveillance man had taken over the day before. Neighbors had spotted the man and his wife and, realizing they were not the normal tenants, phoned the local police. The Montreal North Police Department, knowing nothing of the stakeout, sent the squad car to investigate. The RCMP constable had to show his identification and ask the police to leave quietly.
“And what about the suspects?” the chief inspector asked.
“There was no reaction. We don’t even know if they saw the squad car.”
“As you know,” the chief inspector said, “I just came back from Sûreté headquarters. Our assistant commissioner was there with me. We’ve had a top-level meeting with St. Pierre of the Sûreté and St. Aubin of the Montreal Department. The assistant commissioner has proposed a strategy and, I’m glad to say, St. Pierre and St. Aubin have accepted it.”
“I see, sir.”
“Our strategy, as the assistant commissioner sees it, will be to pick the suspects off one by one. As soon as one of these birds leaves the premises, we follow him until he’s safely away, then arrest him. If the people in there are who we think they are, they’ll send someone out to see what happened. That way, we’ll reduce their numbers. If Cross is in there, we must minimize his risk.”
“One thing is for sure,” the chief inspector said. “If they’re FLQ, they have dynamite, lots of it, probably enough to blow up the whole block. That’s why we’ll have to go at it very, very gently.”
“When do we start picking them off, sir?”
“Well, it’s — 10:15 now. I’d say we should start right away.”
“I'll phone our observation post.”
“Now, hold on a minute,” the chief inspector said, smiling. “I haven’t finished. The drill is that this is a combined operation, remember?”
“So we have to make the arrests in conjunction with provincial police officers. One RCMP and one provincial officer on each arresting team. That way, you know, the credit will be shared.”
Bloody politics, the inspector thought. “Yes, sir, I understand, sir,” he said.
“Hey,” his partner said. “Two coming out now.”
He grabbed the glasses. Louise Cos-
sette-Trudel and the husband, both wearing overcoats, she carrying a shopping bag. Christ! He went for the phone.
The sergeant answered.
“Two suspects leaving now.”
“Did those provincial officers show up yet?”
“No. There’s nobody here but us chickens.”
“I’ll tell the inspector. Hold on.”
He waited. He could see them going down Des Récollets. They were going downtown. He knew their form by now.
The inspector came on the line. “All right, we can’t wait for the provincials. I’m sending three cars right away.”
“Three cars, sir?”
But the inspector had hung up.
“Hey, Maurice,” he told his partner. “You’d better get going. They’re sending three cars to help you take them in.” But his partner had already moved out.
Wednesday, December 2. After lunch Cross had asked permission to take a shower. Now, guarded by Jacques Lanctôt, he was toweling and dressing himself in the bathroom. As this was the only time the prisoner was not hooded and facing a corner, the guard on the bathroom detail must always wear a mask. However, when the prisoner finished dressing, he donned his own hood, pulling it down completely over his face as he had been told to do when in the bathroom or in transit. Blinded thus, he stood, with almost animal patience, waiting for Jacques. Jacques went to him, took him by the arm and led him out of the bathroom back into the room, lit as always by artificial light, where Cross had now spent 58 days. Jacques eased up the prisoner’s hood and seated him in his chair before the television set.
“Do you want me to turn it on?”
“No thanks. I think I’ll read a while,” the prisoner said. Jacques rapped with his gun butt on the floor, a signal that he wanted to be relieved. Marc Carbonneau came limping in from the kitchen.
“I just want to get a coffee,” Jacques said. Marc nodded and sat down on the air mattress. The prisoner, cowled,
picked up that morning’s newspaper and began to read it.
Sound, in an uncarpeted, unfurnished apartment, is always magnified in volume. Silence is equally distorted. This afternoon, windy, cold, with a grey sunless sky, the rooms in which Jacques moved seemed hollow and silent as an empty tomb. It was after five. Yves had been away since nine this morning: he had been trying for days to get some information on where the Roses might be hiding out. The Trudels had gone downtown, when? At noon. They were taking a long time, weren’t they? No wonder it was quiet. He looked in at the room where Marc, desultorily, had been monitoring the media. The radio was turned on, but so low he could barely hear that banal music from a Broadway show. The television had no sound; images floated across the screen like marine animals in an aquarium tank. Jacques went into the blessed brightness of the kitchen, the one room where there was clear daylight. He got a KIK Cola from the fridge and went to the window with it. It was then that he looked at the man out there. And saw the man looking at him.
The man was in a backyard across the way, one of a row of backyards of houses which fronted on the adjoining street. The man wore a blue raincoat, rubbers and a ski cap with earflaps down. He had a shovel in his hands and when he saw Jacques look at him he began to dig up the yard. A neighbor digging in a yard: it was not a sight to frighten anyone. But when Jacques looked at the ground the man was digging, there seemed no reason to dig there. Instinctively, he drew back from the window, out of sight. At once, the man stopped digging and looked at the balcony behind him. On this balcony, ostensibly reading a newspaper, sat another man, also in a dark overcoat. There was something wrong with that. It was too cold to sit out and it was growing dark. The newspaper reader looked down at the digger and nodded. The digger turned and signaled toward the house. Two uniformed Montreal Police constables came down the lane and stood in the lee of the house. The digger pointed to Jacques’ window. The constables nodded, then turned and went back up the lane.
He ran to the front of the house. In the front room the flowered curtains were drawn shut. He eased back the edge of the curtain with the barrel of his M-l. There was no one in the street. He looked at the lot up the street where the kids played ball every afternoon. There were no kids.
He went back to the prisoner’s room and signaled. Marc came into the corridor. In a hoarse whisper Jacques told what he had seen. “Go and look for yourself.”
Marc went into the kitchen, stayed a few minutes and came back. He nodded. He noticed that Jacques’ hands tightened around the gun butt of the M-l.
Marc looked back at the front door. At any moment, the police might break down that door. The door was boobytrapped with powerfrac dynamite, set to blow.
“The booby trap?” Marc said.
“I disconnected it when the Trudels went out.”
“Hook it up again.”
Jacques went up the corridor, fiddled with the electric connection and came back again. “If it’s a fight they want, we’ll give them a fight. We’ll blow the whole damn street up.”
“With four sticks of dynamite?”
“I wonder, have they arrested the Trudels? Or Yves?”
At seven that evening Yves Langlois walked up Des
Récollets Street and entered the
continued on page 64
^^ves felt sick. It was like a Western with the waiting posse across the street
100 HOURS / FROM PAGE 22
apartment. When he had admitted him, Jacques Lanctôt locked the door again, then put down his M-l and gripped Yves in a bear hug. “Christ, you’re back! Christ, I thought for sure they were going to arrest you there in the street.”
“The flics. They’re all around us.” “I didn’t see any,” Yves said. “You’re imagining it.”
Jacques stared at him. “They’re out back. But you can’t see, it’s too dark now.”
“Where are the Trudels?”
“That’s what I mean. They never came back. They left at noon.”
“Take it easy,” Yves said; but felt himself infected with this fear. He went in to see Marc, who was with the prisoner. Marc’s eyes looked grateful when Yves came in; like a dog who’s been locked up.
“Anything on the Roses? Where were you all day?” Jacques said, coming after him.
“Just stooging around town. Everybody under the sun is in jail or just out of jail. All kinds of people and, the joke is, 90% of them never heard of the FLQ. It’s ridiculous.”
“Anyone seen the Roses?”
“No, Alain thinks they’re still up north some place. Did you eat yet?”
“I forgot,” Jacques said. “Christ, man, we’re worried. I tell you we saw flics out back.”
“I’m going to eat,” Yves said. He went into the kitchen and found some bread and peanut butter. As he was spreading the peanut butter, Jacques called:
He went into the front room. Jacques was crouched by the window, his gun barrel poking the curtain aside. “Look out there.”
Yves knelt and peered out. There were six men standing across the street. Six big men in overcoats and hats staring at their building. Cops. They couldn’t be anything else.
“They know” Jacques Lanctôt said. Yves drew back, squatting on the floor, staring at Jacques. Jacques’ large hexagonal sunglasses hid his eyes, so Yves could not see if he was afraid. Yves felt sick: it was like a Western, the posse across the street, the law; now for the shoot-out. “Oh Christ!” Yves said.
“They must have arrested the Trudels.”
“Why didn’t they pick you up then?” Jacques said.
“Maybe, when I went out this
morning they hadn’t found us yet. When I came back tonight they didn’t know where I was headed. When I turned in here, it was too late for them to grab me.”
“If they know,” Yves said, “then they know Cross is here. They don’t want a shoot-out in case he gets killed.”
Jacques sat in the darkened room in silence. Then knelt again and peered out from under the curtain. “Still there?” Yves asked.
“Yes. We’ll have to tell Marc. Will you take his place?”
A moment later Marc came in, knelt, looked out, let the curtain drop. “Come in the kitchen,” Marc said to Jacques.
In the kitchen it was dark. Jacques peered out, then pulled down the blind and switched the overhead light on. Marc lit a cigarette. His lips were dry; he kept moistening them with his tongue. “One thing that’s good,” he said. “The girls aren’t here.”
“Yes. We’re in for a fight.”
Marc smoked in silence. Then: “You know. There’s still the Cuban consul down there at the Expo grounds. And that plane at the airport. Supposing we ask them to send us, Suzanne and the kid? And release the Trudels and let them come too?” “It’s too late for that,” Jacques said. “All those flics want now is to put us in a position where they can take a good shot. They want to send us to hell — not to Cuba.”
“But they won’t want to send Cross to Britain air freight.”
“They don't care about Cross! If they’d cared about Cross we wouldn’t be here two months!”
“Okay, okay, take it easy,” Marc said. “I’ll go check with Yves. See you in a minute.”
“Wait. What are we doing, sitting here like dopes? You watch the back, I’ll watch the front. If they rush the building we'll put Cross in the car. We’ll show them the dynamite and pretend we’ve enough to blow the block up. Remember, these maudits flics are fond of their skins.”
Marc shrugged. He took the Beretta pistol from his belt and went to the window. “All right, you take the front room.”
Shortly before ten o’clock that night they heard a sudden tramp of feet on the sidewalk; it sounded like men coming on the run up from Rue Martial. Jacques Lanctôt backed into the corridor, holding his M-l at the ready. “Get the handcuffs on Cross!”
In the prisoner’s room, Yves rose and swiftly handcuffed Cross. “What’s wrong?” the prisoner asked. Yves did not answer. Minutes passed. There was no further sound. After 15 minutes Marc came in, took the key from Yves, and uncuffed Cross.
“What’s the matter?” Cross asked again.
Marc looked at Cross, who sat, as usual, his back to them, facing the wall. There was a silence.
“The police know where you are,” Marc said, softly.
The prisoner’s head jerked up.
Marc beckoned Yves and whispered, “They’re moving people out of the buildings around us.”
“Are they?” Yves said. Suddenly, inexplicably, he had lost his awful fear. “It’s going to be a shoot-out after all. Rat-a-tat-tat! Bonnie and Clyde.”
“Bonnie who?” Marc asked. He did not go to English-language movies.
“What are you laughing at?”
“I don’t know,” Yves said. “I guess I’m hysterical.”
Marc looked at him, then went back into the kitchen. Yves saw him settle by the window, his Beretta cocked.
Suddenly, at 2 a.m., all the lights went out. Marc lit matches and checked the downstairs fusebox. “They’ve cut the power,” he reported as he came up from the garage and was joined by Jacques in the dark corridor. “Get Cross up,” Jacques called to Yves. “Bring him here.”
The prisoner, lying on his mattress, was not asleep. He heard them say the power was cut. The one guarding him got him up and led him into the corridor. They told him to sit on the mattress which they dragged into the corridor. Then handcuffed one of his wrists to a doorknob. It was a painful posture. When they had tied him up like that, all three ran into the front room.
They had heard a noise. Marc edged toward the front window and poked the curtain aside. A man in plainclothes was creeping on his hands and knees, coming from the sidewalk toward them. He was trying to reach the valve which connected the building’s water supply just below the front window. Marc opened the window and stuck his M-l barrel out. “Get away from there, you sonofabitch!” he said.
The man looked up, then, rising to his feet, turned and walked quickly back across the road.
“All right,” Jacques said. “That’s it! If they want a fight, they’ll have a fight. They’ll have to kill me. I’m not going into those cells!”
He put his gun down and ran back into the kitchen. On the top shelf of the cupboard was a small can of pale-blue paint. He took it and ran back into the front room. With a rag he daubed huge letters on the windowpane: FLQ.
He ran into the other front room and repeated the manoeuvre. FLQ. He was excited, sweating, trembling in rage. “Okay,” he said. “Let’s mark off the shooting territory.”
“There’s still Cuba!” Marc said. Jacques stared at him.
“That’s right,” Yves said.
“We still have Cross,” Marc said. “We still have a chance.”
“What if they pretend to make a deal and, when we leave, some guy dressed as a civilian comes up in the crowd and shoots us in the back?” “Sure, there’ll be risks,” Marc said.
“Cuba or a shoot-out,” Yves said. “It’s all the same to me.”
The seconds dragged into a minute. Jacques Lanctôt’s left foot began its autonomous jiggle. Then stopped. “All right,” Jacques said. “Cuba.” “Let’s throw out a message,” Marc said. “There’s a piece of hollow pipe in the garage.”
The FLQ stationery he had once designed with such pride, the logo of the habitant farmer, the words OPÉRATION LIBÉRATION. Jacques stared at the familiar sheet of paper as, the flashlight balanced on the table beside him, he began this, his last communiqué. He wrote it in his own hand.
“Hey, what’s the name of that other lawyer, the one who helped Vallières and Gagnon?”
“No, not Lemieux. The Jew.” “Bernard Mergler. He’s the civil liberties lawyer.”
“Yeah, that’s him. Robert’s still locked up, they’d never let him out to help us, would they?”
“I don’t know.”
“Get Mergler,” Yves said. “When I worked in the courts our guys said he was honest and a great lawyer.”
“Will he come?”
“Yes. He’s a good guy, I tell you.” “Okay. How does this sound, then?
“Communiqué: If you try anything (guns, gas, etc.), Mr. J. Cross will be the first to die. We have several sticks of powerfrac dynamite. If you want to negotiate send us a newspaperman from Québec - Presse or Le Devoir. Plus Lawyer B. Mergler. We shall
“That sounds good.”
Jacques rolled it in a cylinder and slipped it into the foot-long length of lead pipe.
“Open the window.”
The pipe was hurled out onto Des Récollets Street. They heard it clang on the pavement. Feet pounded suddenly.
“Cálice!” Marc said, laughing. “They thought it was a stick of dynamite.”
“Did they get it yet?”
“Here they come. Oh! Oh! They’re scared shitless. It’s not dynamite, don’t worry, les flics! Pick it up, yes, that’s the brave flic. Look inside. Right. Now, go back to Führer St. Pierre and tell him what we say.”
At dawn they uncuffed Cross from the doorknob in the corridor and allowed him to lie down on the mattress. Then handcuffed his wrists and put a blanket over him. When they had settled him, they went to the windows to watch. From dawn onward there were signs of movement and, at 8 a.m., suddenly, it all began to come together. Army transport helicopters chattered like giant crows, passing and repassing over their roof, landing troops in the grounds of the nearby Ecole Benjamin de Montigny. Files of grey ambulances passed at the foot of Rue Martial. In the distance, on the adjoining Avenue Gariepy, they could see uniformed police moving men, women and children from nearby houses. Plainclothesmen with highpowered rifles patrolled the roofs of surrounding buildings. A fire engine arrived and was stationed at the foot of the street beside a blue truck from the Montreal Police Bomb Disposal Squad. At 8:30 a.m., 150 armed policemen were deployed at the four connecting intersections surrounding the block, while combat troops armed with FN automatic rifles and Stirling submachine guns stood in long lines along the spines of each adjoining street. The final move, directly aimed at terrorizing the terrorists, was the appearance of small groups of plainclothes policemen wearing red armbands and carrying automatic rifles, walking up and down Des Récollets Street, directly opposite the kidnappers’ hideout.
Slowly, as though wakening from a two-week sleep, the news media regained their air of excitement. At 9:30 that morning, Thursday, December 3, the radio announced that Quebec Justice Minister Choquette would be flown by helicopter from Quebec to Montreal Police headquarters and
continued on page 66
f those fascist pigs shoot us down they’l I make us martyrs,” said Marc
100 Hours from page 65
directly to the scene of the operation. Robert Demers, the lawyer who had earlier acted as government negotiator, was on his way to Montreal North, together with a negotiator who would act for the kidnappers.
“A negotiator,” Marc said. “And they say the Cuban consul is on his way to the Man and His World pavilion.”
“Maybe we won’t have a shoot-out after all?” Yves said.
“Don’t count on it,” Jacques told him. “If those flics can get their hands on us for five minutes we won’t be worth sending to Cuba.”
“It’s some right-wing lunatic that worries me,” Yves said. “Some rightwing Oswald out there with a gun, waiting to avenge Christ knows what.”
“You’re not kidding,” Jacques said. “What chance have we got?” His left foot began to jiggle nervously. Marc noticed it. “Look, we still have a good chance,” Marc said. “And do you realize that if we get out of here and they shoot us down, the television will be on us? One thing we’re going to get is coverage.”
“That’s right.” At mention of coverage, Jacques’ nervousness seemed to disappear. “I’ve often thought about that,” he said. “If we escape today we’ll be escaping on television. The whole world will see what we’ve done! The whole damn world will see this happening! It would be fantastic!”
“Yes,” Yves said. “It’s like we wrote the script. The Cuban consul waiting and the cops and the plane — Jesus!”
For a moment they stared at each other. Marc realized that he was trembling. Jacques’ eyes were hidden by his shades but his face was lit in a smile. Yves kept punching his thigh, a trick of his when excited.
“So let’s get out there where we can show them, right?” Marc said. “If those fascist pigs shoot us down, they’ll make us martyrs, do you realize that?”
“Saint Marc!" Yves said and made the sign of the cross.
Marc turned, aimed a mock punch at Yves, then went into the front room. He knelt and peered out under the flowered curtain. Soldiers and plainclothesmen armed with rifles were on the roofs opposite, facing in his direction. But the only figures now on the street were two small clumps of the mysterious plainclothesmen, wearing red armbands and carrying automatic rifles.
Then, slowly, cleared through the police barrier at the far end of the street, a car approached. It came on cautiously, stopping some yards away from their building. Three men got out. One of them pointed to the building where Marc knelt behind the curtain. Then pointed to a house across the street. One of the other men nodded and began to walk toward Marc’s building. The other two men turned, crossed the street and went in at the side door of the house across the way.
The man coming toward Marc’s building wore a dark overcoat and hat, a white shirt, dark tie and darkish suit: he did not look like a cop. Dark hornrims, moustache, about 45 or 50, Marc estimated. Yes, he could be the lawyer, all right. He did not seem to be armed.
A few moments later, there was a knock at their door. Marc positioned the others, then went cautiously toward the front door.
“Who is it?”
“It’s Mergler and I am all alone.”
Marc signaled and Jacques undid the bolt, unhooked the chain, and opened the door. Both he and Marc raised their guns.
The lawyer, seen close, was pale but composed, with a wary manner and too perfect teeth. He asked Marc if he was Jacques Lanctôt.
Marc said he was Carbonneau. He pointed to Jacques. “This is Lanctôt.”
The lawyer then asked them if Mr.
Cross was there and if he was all right. They led him down the hallway to the corridor where Cross lay on a mattress, a blanket over him, guarded by Yves, who was holding the M-l. In English, the lawyer asked Cross if he was all right. Cross smiled and said he was fine. The lawyer then said he recognized Cross from his photographs but had been asked to make a positive identification.
“I am to make a positive identification of you by asking you the name of the bull terrier you had when you were posted to Delhi.”
“Garm,” said Cross. “The name was Garm. G-A-R-M.”
That seemed to satisfy the lawyer. He told Cross, in English, that he hoped to have him out in an hour or an hour and a half. Then he turned to Jacques Lanctôt.
Jacques and Marc led the lawyer into the empty front room where he gave them a paper which he said was the government’s plan for their safe conduct to St. Helen’s Island where a temporary Cuban consulate had been
set up. Jacques began to read the document. Cross was to ride with his captors to St. Helen’s Island and remain there in the consul’s custody until the plane carrying the kidnappers touched down in Cuba. But Jacques was searching for something else in the document. “What about the wives and children, does it mean they can go along?”
The lawyer said it did.
“What about the Trudels? Are they included?” Jacques said, asking the question he most feared to ask. For if Louise and C-T could not go, how could he live, later, with their abandonment?
The lawyer said the authorities had promised that the safe conduct would include the Trudels who were being held by the police. Then Jacques asked about persons now held under the War Measures Act, and, of course, the lawyer said no. Marc could have told Jacques that and thought it childish to have brought it up at this point.
Yves had brought Cross into the room and now Cross, relaxed, no longer with the air of a prisoner, smiled and said to the lawyer, “These chaps seem to be afraid of right-wing terrorists.”
“No,” Marc said. “We’re afraid of a police ambush.”
The lawyer then offered to go downtown in the car with them, if that would help.
“Look,” Cross said, smiling. “What’s the matter here? Am I not important enough? Or do you think the authorities don’t care about me? Surely you realize the entire world is watching and the authorities here will certainly not want anything to go wrong.”
“Okay,” Jacques said. “We’ll leave in our own car with our own weapons, clothes, and so on. We’ll get into the car downstairs, drive out, drive nonstop to St. Helen’s Island, and hand Mr. Cross over there.”
The lawyer turned to go. “Remember, we expect you back in 10 minutes,” Jacques said. “We don’t like the way things are shaping up out there. Who are all these people with the red armbands?”
“Well, they’re certainly not Red Guards,” Yves said.
Marc was at the window. “Why are they wearing the armbands, then?”
The lawyer said he thought that if shooting started, the authorities wanted to be able to distinguish between plainclothesmen and the FLQ.
They let the lawyer out. Watched
him as he
continued on page 68
Jsn't it bourgeois to arrive in Cuba with a television set? But they took it, anyway
100 Hours from page 66 /
the street and went in at the side entrance of the house opposite. There were special phones in there, connecting with Choquette, the police, even with Trudeau himself.
Yves kept staring at Cross. This man, now, uncowled, standing up straight, talking to them as an equal, was so different from the man they had kept handcuffed, the man they had guarded day after day, the man they led miserably about this little apartment. Cross had lost about 20 pounds and was pale from lack of sunlight, but now he seemed a younger brother to that heavy, aging man they had taken from the mansion on Redpath Crescent. Smiling, suddenly confident, for the first time he saw them unarmed, unmasked, saw them as they really were. Now it was they who were trapped, surrounded.
“He’s coming back,” Jacques reported, from the front room. The lawyer knocked and was admitted. He
said the authorities warned that if they had booby traps or timing devices in their baggage they would have to be defused and removed. He said the police would enter the house as soon as they went out. If anything happened — the getaway car would be stopped en route.
They bargained. Jacques insisted on their taking the 20 pounds of dynamite with them in the car. He would surrender it only to the Cuban consul.
The lawyer went back across the street, returning some minutes later. They went over the documents one last time. Because the Chrysler was in such poor condition it was arranged that an empty police car would follow behind them in case they broke down or had a flat. Marc would then take over and drive the police car. It was their last condition. The lawyer went across the street to check, then came back and told them to get their baggage ready. Yves and Marc started
throwing clothes into three suitcases and there was a discussion about the big portable television set, the one valuable thing they had in the place. “Isn’t it going to seem real bourgeois to arrive in Cuba with a television set?” Yves said. But they took it.
“I’ll drive this wreck,” Marc said. “Yves and Mr. Mergler should sit up front with me and, Jacques, you sit with Mr. Cross in the back seat.”
But as they began to go down into the garage, Jacques grew nervous again. “Supposing the flics have some sharpshooters hidden in there, waiting to pick us off?”
The lawyer bravely suggested that if they were worried about sudden ambush they let him go first into the garage. “All right,” Jacques said.
The lawyer entered the garage, dark, quiet as a grave. Their old Chrysler stood silent, in the fine dust of two months’ inaction. Jacques followed the lawyer in, cautiously, his
M-l at the
continued on page 70
100 Hours, from page 68
garage was empty.
Then they brought Cross in and Jacques unlocked the handcuffs, taking them off, throwing them on the concrete floor, with a loud clatter which grated in the tense gloom of the darkened garage. He and Yves began to load up their luggage in the trunk. That big Jesus television set, how would they get it in? “Cálice!” Marc swore. “We should have left it behind.” But the lawyer suggested they put it in the back seat where it would act as a shield for Cross. They put Cross in beside it and then Jacques and Yves began to stick pieces of newspaper up to screen the other windows from view. But the lawyer, impatient, said they must hurry. They must go now.
Marc sat behind the wheel, worried about whether the old car would start after all these weeks. Yves got in with him, and Jacques got in back with Cross, holding onto the right rear door which would not close properly. “Let’s go, then,” Jacques said. Marc engaged the ignition. The old engine turned over, died, coughed, coughed, coughed and then, with a rusty noise like oil drums dragging across a brick floor, it caught and roared into splendid life.
With a bump of its undercarriage, the old Chrysler came up over the hump of the ramp and stopped on the street. It was 12:55 p.m. The lawyer, waiting on the sidewalk, opened the front door of the car and got into the front seat beside Yves. The old Chrysler, jerking forward, then turned down Des Récollets Street, as motorcycle police, straddling their machines like mechanical cowboys, slammed down six riding boots, six engines catching at once in a roar of disciplined thunder, and the police bull team moved into position, three to ride shotgun around this Very Important Automobile, three to leapfrog ahead, holding traffic at intersections, sidelining all other cars, bulling the motorcade through. Overhead, with a loon’s lurch, an Armed Forces helicopter moved out to chart the traffic pattern, while behind the bull team eight other automobiles moved into gear.
And, all around, bright sunlight, crash helmets, uniforms, cleared streets, crowds, traffic lights stopped in mid-signal, cops waving them through. Racing nonstop across the city at 60 miles an hour, their route laid down by the police, acting out this script they had helped to write, escaping as no fugitives in history have ever escaped before: live, on television. ■