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steady breeze had whipped up on the water. A strop of lesser black-back gulls had moved into town and were tearing at a plastic bag on a vacant lot. I turned to look back one last time at the river. Beyond the Sailor’s Church lay the golden brown Hargreaves Building, now the home of the Racquet Club hotel. I pushed open the heavy black wooden door, embellished with a bronze lion, and scaled the tall flight of gaslit stone steps with its brass bannisters. The key to my cabin was hanging from the wall behind the reception desk.

At the top of the staircase a stuffed armadillo looked out at me from its glass cabinet, and behind it on the wall was a framed map of the River Amazon. I paused to locate Manaus. To the north of its floating harbour was Roraima, to the west Tefé and to the east Santarém on the bank of the Tapajós. Further downstream in the direction of Belém was the confluence of the Xingu. The Mato Grosso, where Fawcett had disappeared, lay hundreds of kilometres to the south east. Two floors up in the annexe of the building, below the slate roof watched over by a Liver Bird, I began to turn over in my head all that I had learned and remembered about the Fawcett saga.

That night I had several fragmented dreams in which I was hurrying to board a ship bound for an unspecified destination in an anonymous port. I had a flashback of a globular, dark-wooded island that loomed out of the mist, far out on the western ocean. On its sandy beach were the orixas, the divine forces


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