Jack Higgins – The Last Place God Made

“See you around, sport,” Johnson called.

I suppose I made some sort of answer, but I can’t be certain ‘for I was too busy reliving that first night in minutest detail. My meeting with Hannah, events atThe Little Boat, Maria of the Angels and what had happened later.

For the first time, or at least for the first time consciously, it occurred to me that, to use one of Hannah’s favourite phrases, I had been taken.

Strange how the body reacts according to circumstances. Sleep was the least of my requirements now. What I needed were answers and it seemed a reasonable assumption that I might get them at the place where it had all started.

I had a cold bath, mainly to sharpen myself up for it had occurred to me that I might well need my wits about me be-fore the night was over. Then I dressed in my linen suit, creased as it was from packing, slipped the.45 automatic in one pocket, a handful of cartridges in the other and left.

It was eight o’clock when I reachedThe Little Boat, early by their standards and there wasn’t much happening. I wanted one person, Hannah’s old girl-friend, Lola of the red satin dress, and she was not there. Would not be in until nine-thirty at the earliest according to the barman.

I steeled myself to wait as patiently as possible. I’d had no more than a sandwich all day so I went out on the private deck and ordered dinner and a bottle of Pouffly on Hannah’s ac-count which gave me a perverse pleasure.

Lola arrived rather earlier than expected. I was at the coffee stage of things when the sliding door opened then closed again behind me, fingers gently ruffled my hair and she moved round to the other side of the table.

She looked surprisingly respectable for once in a well-fitting black skirt and a white cotton blouse which buttoned down the front.

“Tomas says you were asking for me.” She pushed a glass towards me. “Any special reason?”

I filled her glass. “I was looking for a little fun, that’s all. I’m in for the night.”

“And Sam?”

“What about Sam?”

“He is with this – this woman who was here the other night? The American?”

“Oh, she seems to have become something of a permanent fixture up at Landro,” I said.

The stem of the wineglass snapped in her hand. “God damn him to hell,” she said bitterly.

“I know how you feel,” I said. “I love him too.”

She frowned instantly. “What do you mean?”

I stamped on the floor for the waiter. “Oh, come on now,” I said. “Maria of the Angels, you remember her? The one who was so good at dropping out of sight? Mean to say you and Hannah had never clapped eyes on her before?”

The waiter appeared with another bottle. She said care-fully, “And even if this were so, why should I tell you?”

“To get your own back on him. Much simpler from your point of view than sticking a knife in hisback. Now that can be messy. That would get you at least ten years.”

She laughed out loud, spilling her wine on the table. “You know, I like you, Englishman. I like you a lot.”

She leaned across the table, her mouth opening as she kissed me, tongue probing. After a reasonably lengthy interval, she eased away. Her smile had faded slightly and there was a look of surprise on her face. She seemed to come to some decision and patted my cheek.

“I’ll make a bargain with you. You give me what I want and I’lll you what you want. A deal?”

“All right,” I said automatically.

“Good. My place is just along the waterfront from here.”

She walked out and I followed, wondering what in the hell I’d let myself in for now.

The room was surprisingly clean with a balcony overlooking the river, the image of the Virgin and Child on the wall above a flickering candle. Lola herself was a surprise to say the least She left me on the balcony with a drink and disappeared for a good fifteen minutes. When she returned, she was wearing a housecoat in plain blue silk. Every trace of make-up had been scrubbed from her face and she had tied back her hair.

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