Jack Higgins – The Last Place God Made

“All right,” I said. “I’ll leave at once in the Hayley. Is she ready for off, Mannie?”

“Is now. She was having magneto trouble, but I’ve fixed that.”

“How come the Bristol’s here?”

“Sam went down-river by boat and flew her back. Had to just to keep a plane in the air while I fixed the Hayley. Once that penalty clause comes into operation he has a fortnight to find another pilot. He still hoped something would turn up or at least I thought he did.”

He hurried out and Figueiredo said, “With four to bring back you must go alone, which could be dangerous. Would a machine-gun help?”

“The best idea I’ve heard today.”

He beckoned and I went round the bar counter and followed him through the bead curtain into the back room. He sat down, grunting, beside an old cabin trunk, took a key from his watch-chain and opened it. There were a dozen rifles, a couple of Thompson guns, a box of Mills bombs and quantities of am-munition.

“And where did you get this little lot?” I demanded.

“Colonel Alberto. In case of attack here. Take what you wish.”

I slung one of the Thompson guns over my shoulder and stuffed half a dozen fifty-round clips of ammunition and a couple of Mills bombs into a military-type canvas haversack. “If this doesn’t do it, nothing will.”

I returned to the bar and paused beside Hannah. He moaned a little and stirred. I turned to Figueiredo who had followed me through. “I meant what I said. Lock him in the steam house and don’t let him out till he’s sober.”

“I will see to it, my friend. Go with God.”

I patted the butt of the Thompson gun. “I prefer something you can rely on. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be back. Keep trying to raise Avila. Tell him I’m on my way.”

I smiled bravely, but inside, I felt considerably less sanguine about things as I went down the steps into the street

I took the Hayley up and out of there fast. The last time I’d flown her to Santa Helena it had taken me forty minutes. Now, with the wind under my tail, I had every chance of doing it in half an hour.

When I was ten minutes away, I started trying to raise them on the radio without any kind of success. I kept on trying and then, when I was about three miles down-river from Santa Helena, I found the mission launch. I reduced speed, banked in a wide circle and went down low to take a look.

The launch was grounded on a mudbank, her deck tilted steeply to one side. The hull and wheelhouse were peppered with arrows and the man who hung over the stern rail had several in his back. There was no sign of the other two. I could only hope, for their sakes, that the Huna hadn’t taken them alive.

So that was very much that. I carried on up-river, my speed right down, and passed low over the mission. There was no sign of life and I tried calling them over the radio again. A moment later and Avila’s voice sounded in my ear with reason-able clarity although the strength was weak and there was lots of static.

“Senhor Hannah, thanks be to God you have come.”

“It’s Mallory, I said. “How are things down there?”

“Senhorita Martin, the good Sister and I are in the church senhor. We are all that is left.’ In spite of the distortion, the astonishment in hisvoice was plain. ‘But you here, senhor. How can this be?”

“Never mind that now. I found the launch downstream. They didn’t get very far, those friends of yours. I’m going to land now. Get ready to bring the women across.”

“An impossibility, senhor. There is no boat.”

I told him to stand by and turned over the jetty. He was right enough, so I crossed the river and went in low over the airstrip. There was no sign of life there, but there was a canoe by the little wooden pier.

I circled the mission again and called up Avila. “There’s a canoe at the landing strip pier. Have the women ready to go and I’ll come over for you. I’m going down now.”

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Categories: Higgins, Jack