Jack Higgins – The Last Place God Made

I jumped on him as he started to get up and found him in better shape than he deserved, but then, I had forgotten that colossal strength of his.Igot a fist under the ribs that almost took my breath away, another in the face and then my hands fastened around his throat.

We turned over and over, tearing at each other like a couple of mad dogs and then there was a deafening explosion that had us rolling apart in an instant.

Mannie stood over us clutching the shotgun, his face very pale. “Enough is enough,” he said. “No more of this stupidity.”

In the silence, I was aware of Avila and hisfriends outside on the terrace peering in, of the anguish on Sister Maria Teresa’s face, of Joanna Martin, watchful and somehow wary, glancing first at Hannah and then at me.

We got to our feet together. “All right, have it your way, Mannie, but I’m still clearing out in the morning.”

“We’ve got a contract.” It was a cry of agony and Hannah swayed, clutching at the table, blood streaming from his nose which, as I discovered later, I had broken with my knee.

I jerked my thumb at the shotgun. “I’ve got one of those too, Sam, remember? Try and stop me leaving in the morn-ing and I’m just liable to use it.”

When I turned and walked out, nobody got in my way.

I changed into dry clothes, climbed into my hammock, hitched a blanket around my shoulders and was almost instantly asleep.

It was growing dark as I ploughed my way back through the hangar. I lit the lamp and poured another whisky. I put my head on my hands and closed my eyes and fireworks sparked off in the darkness. My legs ached, my face ached. I wanted nothing so much as sleep.

I sat up and found Joanna Martin standing at the edge of the hangar looking at me. We stared at each other in silence for quite some time. Finally I said, “Did he send you?”

“If you do this to him he’s finished,” she replied.

“I’d say he’s just about earned it.”

Anger flared up in her suddenly. “Who in the hell do you think you are, Lord God Almighty? Haven’t you ever made a mistake? The guy was desperate. He’s sorry for what he’s done. He’ll make it up to you.”

I said, “What are you supposed to do next? Take me back to bed?”

She turned and walked out. I sat there staring into the dark-ness, listening to the rain and Mannie moved out of the shadows.

“You too?” I said. “What are you going to do? Tell me some cosy Hassidic story about some saintly old rabbi who always turned the other cheek and smiled gratefully when they spat on him?”

I don’t know whether he’d come with the intention of appeal-ing to me to think again. If he had, then that little speech of mine made him certainly think twice. He simply said, “I think you’re wrong, Neil, taking all the circumstances into account, but it’s your decision,” and he turned and followed Joanna Martin.

By then I not only didn’t give a damn, I was past caring about anything. I was getting out and nothing on this earth was going to stop me. Let that be an end of it.

I changed into dry clothes, climbed into my hammock, hitched a blanket around my shoulders and was almost instantly asleep.

I don’t know what time the rain stopped, but I awakened to a beautiful morning at eight o’clock, having slept for twelve solid hours. I was sore all over and cramp, that occupational disease of pilots, grabbed at my legs as I sat up. My face ached and I peered in the mirror Mannie had fixed to one of the roof posts; I saw that both cheeks were badly swollen and discoloured with bruising.

There was a step behind me and Mannie appeared, wiping his hands on some cotton waste. He was wearing his overalls and there was grease on his face. The Bristol was parked out on the airstrip.

“How do you feel?” he asked.

“Terrible. Is there any coffee?”

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Categories: Higgins, Jack