“Good old Mannie.” Hannah patted him on the cheek then turned to empty his glass and saw me. God, he was drunk, his face swollen with the stuff, the hands shaking and the look in his eyes….
He took me by the front of the coat and said wildly, “You think I wanted to do that back there? You think it was easy?”
The man was in hell or so it seemed to me then. Certainly enough to make me feel sorry for him. I pulled free and said gently, “Let’s get you to bed then, Sam.”
Behind me the door opened, there was a burst of careless laughter, then silence. Hannah’s eyes widened and hot rage flared. He brushed me aside and plunged forward and I turned in time to see him give Avila his fist full in the mouth.
“I’ll teach you, you bastard,” he yelled and pushed Avila back across a table with one hand while he pounded away at him with the other.
Avila’s friends were already running into darkness which left Mannie and me. God knows, it took everything we had for I think it was himself Hannah was trying to beat to death there across the table and his strength was incredible.
As we got him out through the door, he turned and grabbed at me again. “You won’t leave me, kid, will you? We’ve got a contract. You gave me your word. It means everything – every-thing I’ve got in the world.”
I didn’t need the look on Mannie’s face, but it helped. I said soothingly, “How can I leave, Sam? I’ve got the mail run to Manaus at nine a.m.”
He broke down completely at that, great sobs racking his body as we took him down the steps between us into the rain and started home.
Sister of Pity
I didn’t see anything of Hannah on the following morning. When I took off for Manaus at nine, he was still dead to the world and Mondays were usually busy so I didn’t have time to hang around.
There was not only the mail but a parcel of diamonds from Figueiredo in the usual sealed canvas bag to be handed over to the government agent in Manaus. After that, I had two con-tract runs down-river for mining companies delivering mail and various bits and pieces.
It added up to a pretty full day and I arrived back at Manaus in the early evening with the intention of spending the night at the Palace and the prospect of a hot bath, a change of clothes, a decent meal, perhaps even a visit toThe Little Boat, was more than attractive.
There wasn’t much activity at the airstrip when I landed al-though on some days, you could find two or three planes parked by the hangars, in from down-river or the coast There were still a couple of mechanics on duty and they helped me get the Bristol under cover for the night, then one of them gave me a lift into town in the company truck, an ancient Crossley tender.
When I entered the hotel, there was no sign of Juca behind the desk. In fact there was no one around at all so I went through the door on the left into the bar.
There seemed to be no one there either except for a rather romantic, or disreputable-looking figure, depending on your point of view, who stared at me from the full-length mirror at the other end.
I was badly in need of a shave and wore lace-up knee-length boots, whipcord breeches and leather flying jacket open to re-veal the.45 automatic in its shoulder holster which Hannah had insisted on giving me in place of the Webley, his theory being that there was no point in carrying a gun that wouldn’t either stop a man dead in his tracks or knock him down.
I dropped my canvas grip to the floor, went behind the bar and helped myself to a bottle of cold beer from the ice-box. As I started to pour it into a glass, there was a slight, polite cough.
The woman who had come in through the open french win-dows from the terrace was a nun?tropical white, a small woman, not much over five feet in height with clear, untroubled eyes, not a wrinkle to be seen on that calm face in spite of her age which must have been fifty at least.