I produced the.45 and waved it at him. “Keep your mouth shut and you won’t get hurt”
Then I turned to Maria. “I’d have thought you could have done better than that.”
She was calmer now, a trifle arrogant even. She pulled the old wrapper she was wearing closer around her and folded her arms. “What do you want?”
“Answers, that’s all. Tell me what I want to know and I won’t bring the police into this.”
“The police?” She laughed at that one. Then shrugged. “All right, Senhor Mallory, ask away.”
“It was a set-up our meeting that night, arranged by Hannah -am I right?”
“I’d just come up-river,” she said. “I was new in town. No-body knew me except Lola. We’re second cousins.”
“What did he pay you?”
“He told me to take whatever money was in your wallet and get rid of anything else.”
The instant she said it, I knew that she had not done as she was told. She wasn’t the sort. I said, “You’ve still got them, haven’t you? My wallet and the passport.”
She sighed in a kind of impatience, turned to a sideboard, opened the drawer and took out my wallet. The passport was inside together with a few other bits and pieces and a photo of my mother and father. I was caught by that for a moment then stowed it away and put the wallet in my breast pocket.
“Your parents, senhor?” I nodded. “They look nice people. You will not go to the police?”
I shook my head and put the.45 back in my pocket. “That’s one hell of a knee you have there.”
“It’s a hard world, senhor.”
“You can say that again.”
I let myself out and went down the stairs. It was very quiet on the waterfront and I walked along the pier and sat on a rail at the end smoking a cigarette, feeling absurdly calm in the circumstances.
It was as if I had always known and had not wanted to face it and perhaps that was so. But now it was out in the open. Now came the reckoning.
I got up and walked back along the pier, footsteps booming hollowly on the wooden flooring, echoing into the night
I had a contract run to make at nine o’clock, a mail pick-up which meant it could not be avoided. It was a tedious run. Sixty miles down-river, another fifty to a trading post at the head-waters of a small tributary to the west.
I cut it down to sixty-five miles by taking the shortest route between two points and flying across country over virgin jungle. A crazy thing to do and asking for trouble, but it meant I could do the round trip in a couple of hours. A brief pause to re-fuel in Manaus and I could be on my way to Landro by noon. Per-haps because of that, the elements decided to take a hand and I flew into Manaus, thunder echoing on the horizon like distant drums.
The rain started as I landed, an instant downpour that closed my world down to a very small compass indeed. I taxied to the hangar and the mechanics ran out in rubber ponchos and helped me get her inside.
The mail was waiting for me, they re-fuelled her quickly enough, but afterwards I could do nothing except stand at the edge of the hangar smoking cigarette after cigarette, staring out at the worst downpour since the rainy season.
After my meeting with Maria of the Angels I had felt sur-prisingly calm in spite of her story. For most of the morning I’d had things well under control, but now, out of very frustra-tion, I wanted to get to Landro so badly that I could taste it. Wanted to see Hannah’s face when I produced my wallet and passport, confronted him with the evidence of his treachery. From the start of things I had never really cared for him. Now it was a question of hate more than anything else and it was nothing to do with Joanna Martin.
Looking back on it all I think that what stuck in my throat most was the feeling that he had used me quite deliberately to further his own ends all along the line. There was a kind of con-tempt in that which did not sit easy.