Joanna stirred Hannah with her toe, then folded her arms and leaned in the open doorway. “He’s a bastard, your friend, King Size, but he knows what he’s talking about. I’ve been a whore all my life, one way or another.”
“All right,” I said. “Why?”
“Oh, there was Grantsville to get out of and that’s the way show business is. How do you think I got where I am?”
She took the cigarette from my mouth, inhaled deeply. “And then,” she said calmly, “I’ve got to admit I like it. Always have.”
Which was honest enough, God knows, but too honest for me. I said, “You can keep the cigarette,’ and moved out into the darkness.”
I paused some little distance away and glanced back. She stood there in the doorway, silhouetted against the light, the outline of her body clear through the thin material of the house-coat. I was filled with the most damnable ache imaginable, but for what I could not be certain. Perhaps for something which had never existed in the first place?
I heard Hannah call her name faintly, she turned and closed the door. I felt a kind of release, standing there in the rain. One thing was for certain – it was the end of something.
There was news when I returned to the hangar, word over the radio that Alberto had been ordered to evacuate Santa Helena forthwith and was to pull out the following day. It touched me in no way at all, meant absolutely nothing. I ignored Mannie’s troubled glances and lay in my hammock staring up at the hangar roof for the rest of the night.
I suppose it would be easy to say with hindsight that some instinct warned me that I stood on the edge of events, but cer-tainly I was aware that something was wrong and waited, filled with a vague unease, anticipating that what was to come was not pleasant.
There was no sign of Hannah when I left at nine the follow-ing morning for Manaus on the mail run. I was tired, too tired for that game, eyes gritty from lack of sleeep and I had a hard day ahead. Not only the Manaus run, but two contract trips down-river.
Under the circumstances, I’d taken the Hayley, but the mili-tary evacuation from Santa Helena made it more than likely that Hannah would be required up there when they managed ta get him out of her bed.
I made the mail drop, re-fuelled and was off again with machine parts which were needed in a hurry by one of the min-ing companies a hundred and fifty miles down-river and a Por-tuguese engineer to go widi them. He wasn’t at all certain about the Bristol, but I got him there in one piece and was on my way back within the hour with ore samples for the assaye officer in Manaus.
My second trip was nothing like as strenuous, a seventy-mile hop with medical supplies to a Jesuit Mission and another quick turn-about, to the great disappointment of the priest in charge, a Dutchman called Herzog who had hoped for a chess game or two and some conversation.
All in all, a rough day and it was about six o’clock in the evening when I landed again at Manaus. A couple of mechanics were waiting and I helped them get the Bristol under cover.
The de Havilland Rapide I’d noticed a day or so earlier, was parked by the end hangar again. A nice plane and as reliable as you could wish so I’d been told. The legendJohnson Air Transport was neatly stencilled under the cabin windows.
One of the mechanics ran me into town in the old Crossley tender again. I dozed off in the cab and had to be awakened when we reached the Palace. Hardly surprising, when you con-sider that I hadn’t slept at all the previous night.
I wanted a drink badly. I also needed about twelve hours in bed. I hesitated by the reception desk, considering the matter. The need for a very large brandy won hands down and I went into the bar. If I hadn’t, things might have turned out very differently, but then, most of life, or what it becomes, depends upon such turns.