Valladolid had been calm for months now, Mexico City also, but... with the Centennial pageantry finished... there was a most unpatriotic rise in what was called banditry across several parts of the Republic and General Bravo cut his consultations in the capital short, taking the steamer from Veracruz to Progreso and assembling a small guard in Merida. The General's requests for continuing supplies were given less attention as difficulties in other corners of Mexico mounted, so he returned to Valladolid... gathering whatever he could there from the outraged but outranked officials of that city... finally plunging off into the monte with his escort during the last week of October, the days of Hanal Pixan - what the mazehualob called the days of return of the souls of the dead. Bravo rode past offerings the sublevados placed beside the road, that on which so many bloody battles had ensued ten years ago. Candles, flowers, food and pottery were strewn across the trail to mark the graves of sublevados whose unseen children watched Bravo riding past, but never raised so much as a machete in opposition to the jefe of the dzulob who enjoyed the protection of their own leaders.

          The General arrived in Santa Cruz upon the morning of the seventh of November, that day on which... according to Maya tradition... spirits take their leave to dwell again in the cold, damp underworld of Metnal for the remnant of the year. It was a hot day, even for the territory, and a smell of sweat and death clung to the Mexicans. As the General... taking possession of his offices as though Tomas had never been there... gave his report on conditions in the capital, José could not help notice that Ignacio Bravo, never a large man, seemed even smaller, as if withered by the relentless sun.

          "Things condense, collapse," he thought, "and does this go on until they explode?" He waited, stopped the General at the door. "A moment of your time, if you will." He nodded towards Consuela, shaking his head at the General.

          "Outside, my flower," Bravo said, inviting José to be seated with a frown. "Do you hear something, a rustling?"

          "Not a thing, my General. Under ordinary circumstances," he continued, "I would hold it nothing of my business but, as an officer and patriot, I feel it my duty to at least inform you of conditions which may adversely affect the Republic and its army."

          "Certainly," Bravo acknowledged.

          "There is, understandably, a high regard for yourself here, a regard which aids in the maintenance of order even in places such as Akbal or Vigia Chico where you are not physically present; even in this capital, during your leave. It grieves me, consequently, to see this regard diminished, even in the slightest, by idle speculation."

          "If it is speculation, then what of it?" Bravo shrugged. "When one has reached my age, little time enough remains to confront that which is real, let alone that which flourishes in the diseased or uneducated mind. Unless there is more than speculation to your concerns," he added.

          "You know the answer to that better than I. And, as you may have observed, General, nature... in the form of a certain person... abhors a vacuum. Aside from rank, the ability to command is a function of confidence, which may be undermined by the presence of an opposition. So, unless you view the situation as one that unfolds to your desire, the only recourse is to remove one or the other of those objects that could prove a wedge by which such confidence is undermined."

          "You are a cold blooded bastard," the General marveled.

          "Perhaps," José acknowledged. "But I am not offering an ultimatum, only a suggestion. Tomas will bring bad fortune to you, that is evident. But what's to be done? Are we not all charged by God to look after our family, no matter how foolish they may be?"

          "Tomas is my youngest surviving son. If there was another," Bravo began, then waved his hand dismissively. "He would come to grief elsewhere, and in a very short time. This slave business is only a small part of the picture. He hungers to be a busy man, without the discipline to be a successful one. But I am compelled to take his part. If I did not, I would be deficient myself."

          "Still, Tomas has set himself against me, meaning that our paths must cross in opposition, fatally so, I'm afraid. There is only one way that the matter ever can be resolved to our mutual satisfaction."

          "And that is?" Bravo asked.

          "I like this army, with all of its faults; I do not even think I could return to Idznacab if my father... whom the saints must preserve... should no longer manage it. It is too sunny there, henequen does not give the shade that this monte does, and I am compelled to retreat deeper into the territory. Let Tomas play to his heart's content in Santa Cruz... give me Akbal, General, and give me the resources to make it a great city, as this is.  The second city of the Territory – more magnificent than Chetumal. I shall not trouble your son, nor will he be distracted from his duties by foolish plottings. If the transfer placates his vanity, so be it. You have this authority to make me disappear."

          "Then go!" said Bravo, kicking angrily, his boot striking something beneath the desk. "Go! I return Akbal to you! Our business arrangements will be as always... and you have only to ask what you desire for your city and I shall see that Don Porfirio provides it. But what is this... an egg? My God, I ordered Tomas not to bring eggs to this place."

          "It doesn't look like a hen's egg," José observed, and drew a handkerchief across his brow.

          "There are th... things..." Bravo stuttered, then changed his mind, and dismissed the Major.

          "Well, I have saved him from choosing between his son and I," José thought, having departed the General's quarters with a salute. "But the matter's not ended, hardly." And, as it would be some hours before the train's next journey to the east, José set his course towards the hospital, for Dr. Rosario usually had knowledge of the whereabouts of old Chankik.