door again-and I hear the bell on the front door again. I look and see it’s that Charlie Burgos punk. He sees Mr. Marais in the chair, runs out the front. I go in, lock the back door, and go out the front. No one sees me. I get drunk in bars, go home.

“That Manet fixed it like a robbery, I figure I’m safe. Only I’m picked up on account of the Buddha I got from Mr. Marais, and the bottle I forgot. If I tell about Manet, you know I was there after Mr. Marais was dead. You all got it wrong, only I did kill Mr. Marais, so I keep quiet, wait. Fortune finds the loot, and you let me go! Charlie Burgos ain’t talked, so I know he’s blackmailing Manet. No one will tell. I’m home free. So I get the idea-I’ll use that package I got to frame Claude. Cover myself for sure, and get that Claude, too.

“I put the package in the register in the hotel when I’m visiting Li. I tell Fortune about the package, and I tip you cops. When you found the package in the register, I went into the bedroom, picked up the hat badge, said I’d found it in the register. Simple. I took the knife then, too. I got a hunch I got to kill that Burgos to frame Claude, and maybe Burgos will try to get Claude free to keep his squeeze on Manet going.

“When you let Claude out, I saw him lose your tail, but he didn’t lose me. I watched him just walking around. I went and killed Burgos, left the knife. It all worked! Claude couldn’t say where he was when Burgos was killed. Everyone figured Burgos seen Claude that night. No way out for Claude, and me safe.

“Then she had to do it! Li. I’m a Chinese man, a Buddhist. I got to tell the truth. She made me. I got to. For China. She die to save my karma, save me. I am a man of China, I got to tell the truth.”

He sat there then in silence, erect and proud. Or was it just the release of confession? Li Marais would have said that a Buddhist could do nothing else. Marx would say that it was the same old story he had seen before-the man driven by the weight of guilt and fear to confess and find some peace. Or I could say it was the work of a sick, confused mind. Take your choice.

“Type it up,” Marx said. “He signs it, then book him.”

28

In the end, Viviane Marais came to my office to pay me. The next morning. She was alone. Claude Marais and Danielle didn’t want to see me. I couldn’t blame Claude.

“He is not bitter, Mr. Fortune,” Viviane Marais said in my hot one-window office. “He says that if it had not been you, she would have found someone else. She was a normal woman, and he had driven her away.”

“What will Claude do now?”

“I don’t know. I doubt if he knows himself,” Viviane Marais said. “Join Gerd Exner again, if Exner is freed. Find some army. Or stay and run the pawn shop for me. Who knows? Not much is solved. Except, I suppose, for Jimmy Sung. What will happen to him?”

“Bellevue first, for observation. With his background, I don’t think he’ll stand trial. A mental hospital, I guess.”

“Is he insane, Mr. Fortune?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Poor, pushed around, ignored, laughed at, a cipher among aliens. We all need identity, pride in what we are. Jimmy Sung found that in an illusion-the glory of China. Because he happened to be Chinese, but maybe more because the Chinese are the enemy today. By joining the enemy of those who despised and hurt him, being part of China in his mind, he could feel superior and despise those who ignored him. He could destroy them vicariously. He carried it too far.”

“As Claude carried his rejection too far,” Viviane Marais said. “He needed his illusion of the glory of France to be superior to Eugene. Then he had to reject all glory to be superior to everyone. You remember that money Claude took from his bank? It wasn’t for blackmail, it was to help Gerd Exner. No matter what Exner had tried to do, he was still a lost comrade. There is still fantasy in Claude.” She lit a cigarette. “Did you ever wonder why Eugene was a quiet man who did nothing, condemned no one?”

“Why?”

“Vel d’Hiv,” she said, “when he did nothing. He was in love with a Jewish girl from Poland before he married me. They took her to Vel d’Hiv that night in 1942. Eugene did nothing.” Viviane Marais smoked. “He would say, later, that every human being has one single moment when he learns that there is no possibility of immortality, completeness, or perfection. Everyone is mortal, incomplete, and imperfect. So he judged no one, looked for no glory, tried to change nothing, and had no illusions. Then he died for an illusion anyway.”

She wasn’t going to find it easy to accept. She wanted good reasons for what happened to her. That was her illusion.

“What is Danielle going to do? The police won’t hold her long on the blackmail charge with Charlie Burgos dead.”

“Who can say what a young girl will do?” Viviane Marais said, stood up. “Good-bye, Mr. Fortune.”

She left, and ended it. Like that. Alone, I thought about Marty who was married to her director by now. Not part of this, yet a cause. If I had not needed money to try to hold Marty, I would never have taken Li Marais’s job. Li might still be alive, Jimmy Sung never suspected. You never knew who or what was going to be a cause.

The tiger, or its shadow.

Jimmy Sung’s desperate need for identity in a world that injured and ignored him. A need that had created an illusion that killed.

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