“Senhor?” he said.
“I’m looking for Captain Hannah,” I told him. “He’s expecting me.”
The teeth gleamed in the darkness.Another friend of Hannah’s. This was really beginning to get monotonous. He didn’t say anything, simply opened the door for me and I passed inside.
I suppose it must have been the main saloon in the old days. Now it was crowded with tables, people crammed together like sardines. There was a permanent curtain of smoke that, allied to the subdued lighting, made visibility a problem, but I managed to detect a bar in one corner on the other side of the small, packed dance floor. A five-piece rumba band was bang-ing out acarioca and most of the crowd seemed to be singing along with it.
I saw Hannah in the thick of it on the floor dancing about as close as it was possible to get to a really beautiful girl by any standards. She was of mixed blood, Negro-European variety was my guess and wore a dress of scarlet satin that fitted her like a second skin and made her look like the devil’s own.
He swung her round, saw me and let out a great cry. “Heh, Mallory, you made it.”
He pushed the girl away as if she didn’t exist and ploughed through the crowd towards me. Nobody got annoyed even when he put a drink or two over. Mostly they just smiled and one or two of the men slapped him on the back and called good-naturedly.
He’d been drinking, that much was obvious and greeted me like a long lost brother. “What kept you? Christ, but I’m starv-ing. Come on, I’ve got a table laid on out on the terrace where we can hear ourselves think.”
He took me by the elbow and guided me through the crowd to a long, sliding shutter on the far side. As he started to pull it back, the girl in the red satin dress arrived and flung her arms around his neck.
He grabbed her wrists and she gave a short cry of pain, that strength of hisagain, I suppose. He no longer looked anything like as genial and somehow, hisbad Portuguese made it sound worse.
“Later, angel – later, I’ll screw you just as much as you damn well want only now, I want a little time with my friend. Okay?”
When he released her she backed away, looked scared if any-thing, turned and melted into the crowd. I suppose it was about then I noticed that the women vastly outnumbered the men and commented on the fact.
“What is this, a whorehouse?”
“Only the best in town.”
He pulled back the shutter and led the way out to a private section of the deck with a canvas awning from which the rain dripped steadily. A table, laid for two, stood by the rail under a pressure lamp.
He shouted in Portuguese, “Heh, Pedro, let’s have some action here.” Then he motioned me to one of the seats and produced a bottle of wine from a bucket of water under the table. “You like this stuff – Pouilly Fuisse? They get it for me special. I used to drink it by the bucketful in the old days in France.”
I tried some. It was ice-cold, sharp and fresh and instantly exhilarating. “You were on the Western Front?”
“I sure was. Three years of it Not many lasted that long, I can tell you,”
Which at least explained the Captain bit.I said, “But America didn’t come into the war till nineteen-seventeen.”
“Oh, that.” He leaned back out of the way as a waiter in a white shirt and cummerbund appeared with a tray to serve us. “I flew for the French with the Lafayette Escadrille. Nieuport Scouts then Spads.” He leaned forward to re-fill my glass. “How old are you, Mallory?”
He laughed. “I’d twenty-six kills to my credit when I was your age. Been shot down four times, once by von Richthofen himself.”
Strange, but at that stage of things I never doubted him for a second. Stated baldly, what he had said could easily sound like boasting and yet it was his manner which said most and he was casual in the extreme as if these things were really of no account.