Jack Higgins – The Last Place God Made

When I turned, I found Hannah standing watching me. I said, “I’m getting out as soon as I get back. You can find some-one else.”

He said tonelessly, “We’ve got a contract, kid, with your sig-nature on the bottom under mine and legally enforceable.”

I didn’t say anything, simply climbed in and went through the fifteen checks, then I wound the starting magneto. Hannah pulled the propeller over, the engine clattered into life and I started to move forward so quickly that he had to duck under the lower port wing.

His face was very white, I remember that and his mouth opening and closing as he shouted to me, but his words were drowned by the roar of the Falcon engine and I didn’t wait to hear, didn’t care if I never clapped eyes on him again.

I was not really aware of having been asleep, only of being shaken roughly awake. I lay there staring up through the mosquito net at the pressure lamp on its hook in the ceiling, moths clustering thickly around it. The hand shook me again, I turned and found Mannie at my side.

“What time is it?” I asked him.

“Just after midnight.” He was wearing his yellow oilskin coat and sou’wester and they ran with moisture. “You’ll have to help me with Sam, Neil.”

It took a moment for it to sink in. I said, “You’ve got to be joking,” and turned over.

He had me half-up by the front of the cotton shirt I was wearing with a grip of surprising strength. “When I left he was just finishing his second bottle of brandy and calling for number three. He’ll kill himself unless we help him.”

“And you really expect me to give a damn after what he did to me today?”

“Now that’s interesting. You said what he did to you, not what he did to those poor bloody savages out there in the bush. Which is most important?”

It almost made my hair stand up on my head in horror at what he was suggesting. I said, “For God’s sake, Mannie.”

“All right, you want him to die, then?”

I got out of bed and started to dress. I’d gone through the whole sorry story with Mannie as soon as I’d got back. Had to get it off my chest before I went mad. What I was looking for, I think, was the reassurance which would come from finding someone else who was just as horrified as I was myself.

His attitude hadn’t been entirely satisfactory and he’d seemed to see rather more in Colonel Alberto’s argument than I was prepared to accept myself. The strange thing was that he seemed worried about Hannah who had avoided me completely since he’d flown in.

I’d washed my hands of both of them, had helped myself to far more of Hannah’s Scotch than was good for me and my head ached from it all as I went up the main street through the rain at Mannie’s side.

I could hear music from the hotel as we approached and light filtered out through the shutters in golden bars. There was the sound of a glass breaking and someone called out.

We paused on the veranda and I said, “If he decides to go berserk, he could probably break the two of us in his bare hands. I hope you realise that.”

“You’re the devil himself for looking on the black side of things.” He smiled and put a hand on my arm for a moment. “Now let’s have him out of here while there’s still hope.”

There were two or three people at the far end of the room, Figueiredo behind the bar and Hannah propped up against it in front of him. An old phonograph was playingValse Triste, Figueiredo’s wife standing beside it.

“More, more!” Hannah shouted, pounding on the bar with the flat of his hand as the music started to run down.

She wound the handle vigorously and Hannah reached for the half-empty bottle of brandy and tried to fill the tumbler at his elbow, sending a couple of dirty glasses crashing to the floor at the same moment.

He failed to notice our approach until Mannie reached over and firmly took the bottle from his hand. “Enough is enough, Sam. Now I think we go home.”

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