I had about three hundred yards to go to the mission and it seemed sensible to get there as quickly as possible. I started to run, holding the Thompson at the high port, ready for action in case of trouble.
I kept as close to the riverbank as possible, mainly because the ground was clearer there and I could see what I was doing. I could hear their voices high and shrill, down on the river, and there was a crashing somewhere behind me in the brash. I turned and loosed off, raking the undergrowth, just to show them I meant business, then ran on, bursting out of the forest into the open a couple of minutes later.
The church was only thirty or forty yards away and I put down my head and ran like hell, yelling at the top of my voice. An arrow whispered past me and buried itself in the door, then another as I went up the steps.
I turned and fired as a reflex action towards the dark shadows at the edge of the trees, each topped by a bright splash of colour. I couldn’t tell if I’d hit anything. In any case, at that moment, the door opened behind me, a hand grabbed me by the shoulder and pulled me inside so forcibly that I lost my balance.
When I sat up, I found Avila leaning against the door clutch-ing a carbine. Sister Maria Teresa and Joanna Martin on either side of him. The American girl was holding a rifle.
She leaned it against the wall and dropped to her knees be-side me. “Are you all right, Neil?”
“Still in one piece as far as I can tell.”
“What happened out there? We heard a terrific explosion.”
“They set fire to thecampo and the Hayley went up with it I was lucky to get here.”
“Then we are finished, senhor/ Avila cut in.’Is that what you are saying? That there is nothing to be done?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” I said. “You could always ask Sister Maria Teresa to pray.”
A drum started to beat monotonously in the distance.
The Last Show
There was still the radio, but according to Avila, he had tried to raise Landro on several occasions since he’d last had contact at noon and I knew Figueiredo had been trying to get through to him which meant something was wrong with the damn thing.
I did what I could considering my limited technical know-ledge, unscrewed the top and checked that no wires were loose and that all valves fitted tightly which was very definitely my limit. I left Avila to keep trying and went and sat with my back against the wall beside Joanna Martin who was making coffee on a spirit stove
Sister Maria Teresa knelt at the altar in prayer. “Still at it, is she?” I said. “Faith unshaken.”
Joanna gave me a cigarette and sat back, waiting for the water to boil. “What happened, Neil?”
“To me?” I said. “Oh, I jumped ship as the Navy say, before I got to where they were taking me.”
“Won’t they be after you – the authorities, I mean?”
“Not any more. You see, strange to relate, I didn’t do it. I was framed. Isn’t that what Cagney’s always saying in those gangster movies?”
She nodded slowly. “I think I knew from the beginning. It never did make any kind of sense.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence,” I said. “You and Mannie both. I could have done with it a little earlier, mind you, but that’s all water under the bridge.”
“Poured out the whole story in front of Figueiredo and his wife and Mannie in the hotel bar earlier this afternoon when I confronted him. So drunk he didn’t know what he was doing. He’s finished, Joanna.”
She poured coffee into a mug and handed it to me. “I think he was finisheda long, long time ago, Neil.”
She sat there, sitting on her heels, looking- genuinely sad, a different sort of person altogether from the woman I was accustomed to. Somehow it seemed the right moment to break it to her.
“I’ve got something for you.” I took the identity disc on its chain from my pocket and held it out to her.