Man on a Rope

Man on a Rope by George Harmon Coxe

Book: Man on a Rope by George Harmon Coxe Read Free Book Online
Authors: George Harmon Coxe
he heard the problem.
    â€œYou mean Chris Holt?” he said. “Sure, Mr. Dawson. The Jessie B . I know her berth. You want to go there now?”
    The route he picked went along High Street for a distance, cut right to Water Street, and then turned left away from the city. Here the area was devoted to commerce and industry, a flat, multi-odored section of warehouses and docks and. small factories. As they continued, the road became increasingly rough and was cut at intervals by manmade canals that reached endlessly inland and served as arteries of transportation just as they did on the larger sugar estates, the carriers long metal cane-punts which were roped end to end and usually hauled by mules.
    A bumpy dirt road took them to a ramshackle but usable shed beyond which stood a line of docks in need of repair. Husky black men were loading bags of rice into the Jessie B’s holds and under the canvas which had been spread aft two men lounged in improvised deck chairs.
    The Jessie B was a black-painted, two-masted craft, old looking but well kept, and lay almost motionless in the muddy-brown river, which stretched broadly across to the distant, low-lying shore. The towering finger of its topmast was seemingly stationary against cloud-studded sky, and a thin wisp of blue smoke oozed from its galley stack to evaporate in the humid morning air. As Barry and Hudson approached, the two men moved in the shade of the awning and Barry knew that the shorter one was Ian Lambert.
    â€œOkay to come aboard?” he said.
    â€œSure.”
    He stepped over the rail and gave a hand to Hudson, who seemed a little uncertain in his movements. He introduced Hudson to Ian, who in turn introduced his rangy, brown-haired companion as Chris Holt, his brother-in-law. Barry sat down on a locker next to the deckhouse and Hudson perched on the rail, hands braced on either side of him.
    â€œHot,” he said.
    â€œYeah,” said Holt.
    Hudson glanced at Barry, his expression suggesting that he could use a little help. When no more was forthcoming he launched into his prologue, picking his words with such care that the result was halting and uncertain.
    In contrast to the sweat-stained, half-clad Negroes who wrestled the rice bags aboard, Holt looked very neat in his well-pressed khakis and clean T-shirt. His skin was sunblackened over the flat-muscled arms and neck, and he sucked on a stubby brier as he listened to Hudson. What he said when the proposition had been explained was in the same general vein as Muriel Ransom’s reply.
    â€œYou got some idea that we know where the diamonds are?”
    â€œNo,” said Hudson. “I’m just passing the word. With no will, Ian here, and your wife, are going to get a good chunk of the estate. The diamonds are part of the estate. What I’m saying is, if you stumble across ’em I’m willing to deal.”
    â€œWhat about Dawson?”
    Hudson looked at Barry. “Forget him. He doesn’t have to know a thing. He don’t want to know. He’s just helping me line up prospects…. Which would you rather have?” he demanded. “If you had a choice. The diamonds or the U.S. dollars?”
    â€œThe dollars.” Holt glanced across at Ian Lambert, who had not opened his mouth or moved a muscle. “What I’m wondering, “he added, “is why you’re so damned anxious to get the stones.”
    â€œI’m not anxious,” Hudson said, “but I don’t like to waste my time. I found a deal I like. I got a market for the stones, and I’m getting a ten-per-cent bonus—a hundred and ten grand for a hundred in cash.”
    â€œYou figure to smuggle them into the States?”
    â€œWhat the hell do you care?” Hudson said testily.
    â€œI don’t. Neither does Ian.” Holt glanced at his brother-in-law. “Do you?”
    Ian’s grunt defied translation, and Holt grinned and said: “Of course, if

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