THE INSURGENCE of CHAN SANTA CRUZ

 

BOOK SIX:  THE FIRST of the BOOKS of CHANGE

 

CHAPTER THIRTY NINE

 

          Shortly after ten a Captain, a Lieutenant and four soldados approached the four guards in Bravo's quarters. "Go to supper," said the Captain, "you've done well for this. We're from Tabi... we'll hold this post for half an hour while you're eating. Is everything alright?"

          The Sergeant of the Guard gratefully thanked this Captain, for Rivera, though warning him to beware of prisoners who might try to break through their ranks to kill Bravo, had apparently made no provision for them. They had waited through the long dinner, but the prisoners seemed more intent upon filling their bellies than revenge. Nonetheless, the Sergeant was conscientious and thoughtfully pointed out both entrances to the General's room. "Bravo's asleep," he said and both trooped upstairs to observe him huddled in the hammock, the American bed still unmade and covered with what seemed to be eggshells. The floor was paneled with shards of broken glass and neither entered, but returned to inform Rivera's men they might go to dinner.

          Such was the situation forty minutes later when they returned, anxious that their lateness might be reported. The Captain from Tabi, however, proved understanding. The general lay still huddled in the hammock, a blanket around his head, and the Captain again advised how grateful his Colonel was for Rivera's coming. Hearing no more untoward sounds the guard divided their duties... two men outside the door, two inside... and although all fell asleep for a time during the night, they were awake and prepared when the summons came on the morning of the seventeenth to have Bravo brought to General Rivera.

          And that time was when they discerned that it was not the General asleep, under their nose, but an imposter.

          Boleaga had tethered a horse to a tree behind the offices and the real Bravo had slipped out of the building, certainly while the guard was at their meal. No further observation was made of the kindly Captain from Tabi and Colonel Rodriguez, having the man described to him, averred that no such officer was among his men. It was Rivera himself who had roused the man he thought to be the former commander, snatching the blankets from the hammock and grasping it to overturn Bravo if he would not rise, but a small, dark man in a General's uniform tumbled out.

          "Buenas dias, General," the fellow greeted Rivera, "as my General is not here I, Julio Salazar, do that honor."

          Rivera was speechless with fury and could only stamp his feet and pound the wall with his fist. As the genial Sergeant entered, Rivera pointed to the imposter and found his voice.

          "Shoot this man!" he ordered. Manuel Rivera had, at last, found the decisiveness a General must exhibit... but it was somewhat late, for after carrying the body from Bravo's offices, Rivera discovered the spoliation of the railroad engine.

          No train, no telegraph! Two thousand of Bravo's troops remained at Santa Cruz... few of them loyal to the fugitive, but few really concerned with much beyond the recuperation of their bonuses. Fifteen hundred indians and convicts... their loyalties unknown.

          If Rivera had erred, at least he was learning. He sent no search party out after Bravo.

 

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