He said, “You’re new around heresaren’t you? What’s your name?”
“Maria of the Angels, eh? I like that. You know me?”
“Everyone along the river knows you, senhor.”
He patted her cheek. “Good girl. Senhor Mallory is a friend of mine – a good friend. You look after him. I’ll see you’re all right.”
“I would have thought the senhor well able to look after himself.”
He laughed harshly. “You may be right, at that.” He turned and went back to the girl in the satin dress and took her down to the dance floor.
Maria of the Angels toasted me without a word and sipped a little of her wine. I emptied my glass in return, stood up and went to the rail. My head seemed to swell like a balloon. I tried breathing deeply and leaned out over the rail, letting the rain blow against my face.
I hadn’t heard her move, but she was there behind me and when I turned, she put her hands lightly on my shoulders. “You would like to dance, senhor?”
I shook my head. “Too crowded in there.”
She turned without a word, crossed to the sliding door and closed it. The music was suddenly muted, yet plain enough a slow, sadsamba with something of the night in it.
She came back to the rail and melted into me, one arm sliding behind my neck. Her body started to move against mine, easing me into the rhythm and I was lost, utterly and com-pletely. A name like Maria and the face of a madonna to go with it perhaps, but the rest of her…
I wasn’t completely certain of the sequence of things after that. The plain truth was that I was so drunk, I didn’t really know what I was doing.
There was a point when I surfaced to find myself on some other part of the deck with her tight in my arms and then she was pulling away from me, telling me this was no good, that there were too many people.
She must have made die obvious suggestion – that we go to her place – because the next thing I recall is being led across that swaying catwalk to the pier.
The rain was falling harder than ever now and when we went up the steps to the pier, we ran into the full force of it. The thin cotton dress was soaked within seconds, clinging to her body, the nipples blossoming on her breasts, filling me with excitement.
I reached out for her, pulling all that ripeness into me, my hands fastening over the firm buttocks. The sap was rising with a vengeance. I kissed her pretty savagely and after a while she pushed me away and patted my face.
“God, but you’re beautiful,” I said and leaned back against a stack of packing cases.
She smiled, for the first and only time I could recall in our acquaintance as if truly delighted at the compliment, a lamp turning on inside her. Then she lifted her right knee into my crotch with all her force.
I was so drunk, that I was not immediately conscious of pain, only of being down on the boardwalk, knees up to my chest.
I rolled over on my back, was aware of her on her knees beside me, hands busy in my pockets. Some basic instinct of self-preservation tried to bring me back to life when I saw the wallet in her hands, a knowledge that it contained every-thing of importance to me, not only material things, but my present future.
As she stood up, I reached for her ankle and got the heel of her shoe squarely in the centre of my palm. She kicked out again, sending me rolling towards the edge of the pier.
I was saved from going over by some sort of raised edgings and hung there, scrabbling for a hold frantically, no strength in me at all. She started towards me presumably to finish it off and then several things seemed to happen at once.
I heard my name, clear through the rain, saw three men halfway across the catwalk, Hannah in the lead. He had that.45 automatic in his hand and a shot echoed flatly through the rain.