Jack Higgins – The Last Place God Made

It was a different story in Hannah’s old room. It stank like a urinal and from the look of things had very probably been used for that purpose. The bed had been recently slept in, sheets and blankets scattered to the floor and someone had vomited by the window.

I got out of there fast, my stomach heaving, and moved to-wards Landro, the shotgun in the crook of my left arm. Again, there was this quality ofdeja vu to everything. As if I had taken this same walk many times before, which in a way, I had. The same hopeless faces on the veranda of the homes, the same dirty, verminous little children playing underneath.

Time was a circle, no beginning, no end and I would take this walk for all eternity. A disquieting thought to say the least and then, when I was ten or fifteen yards away from the hotel, I heard the crash of glass breaking, a woman screamed and a chair came through one of the windows.

A moment kter, the door was flying open and Mannie backed out slowly. Beyond him, Hannah stood inside the bar clutchinga. broken bottle by the neck.

It was Hannah who saw me first – saw a ghost walk before him. A look of stupefaction appeared on his face, his grip slackened, the bottle fell to the floor.

He was certainly a sight, no resemblance at all to the man I had met that first day beside the Vega. This was a human wreck. Bloodshot eyes, face swollen by drink, the linen suit in-describably filthy and soaked in liquor.

Mannie glanced over his shoulder. His eyes widened. “God in Heaven, we have miracles now? You’re supposed to be dead in some swamp on the Seco. We had a message on the radio from Manaus last night. What happened?”

“My luck turned, that’s what happened.” I went up the steps to join him. “How long has he been like this?”

“Fifteen or sixteen hours He’s trying to kill himself, I think. His own judge and jury.”

“And why should he do that?”

“You know as well as I do, damn you.”

“Well, thanks for speaking up for me,’ I said. ‘You were a real friend in need.”

He said instantly, “I didn’t know till the night before last when he started raving. Didn’t know for sure, anyway. Even then, what proof did I have? You were pretty mad when you left here, remember? Capable of most things.”

Hannah had simply stood there inside the door during this conversation staring stupidly at me as if not comprehending. And then some sort of light seemed to dawn.

“Well, I’ll be damned,” he said. “The boy wonder. And how was Devil’s Island?”

I moved in close, the barrel of the 10-gauge coming up. Mannie cried out in alarm, a woman screamed, Figueiredo’s wife standing with her husband behind the bar. Hannah laughed foolishly, took a swipe at me and almost lost his balance, would have done if he hadn’t fallen against me, knocking the barrel of the shotgun to one side.

He had a stirik on him like an open grave, a kind of general corruption that was more total in its effect than any mere physical decay. I was seeing a human being disintegrate before my eyes.

I lowered my gun and pushed him away gently. “Why don’t you sit down, Sam?”

He staggered back and flung his arms wide. “Well, if that don’t beat all? Would you listen to the boy wonder turning the other cheek.”

He blundered along the counter sending glasses flying. “But I fixed you, wonder boy. I really fixed you good.”

Figueiredo glanced at me, frowning. I said, “Nobody fixed me, Sam, I just got caught, that’s all.”

The remark didn’t seem to get through to him and in any event, was unnecessary for he condemned himself out of his own mouth with no prompting from me.

He reached across the counter, grabbing Figueiredo by the front of his jacket. “Heh, listen to this. This is good. Wonder boy, here, was running out on me, see? Leaving me in the lurch so I fixed him good. He thought he was takinghis last mail run, but I slipped him a little extra something that sent him straight to Machados. Don’t you find that funny?”

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Categories: Higgins, Jack