THE INSURGENCE of CHAN SANTA CRUZ

 

BOOK SIX:  THE FIRST of the BOOKS of CHANGE

 

CHAPTER FORTY ONE

 

          Vargas and Moron exchanged glances and the former shook his head. But Moron replied by removing his pistol, with which instrument he pointed down the trail.

          "You know as well as I," he said, "what's in those saddlebags. Do we turn and ride on to Vigia Chico as poor and wretched fugitives in search of charity or do we seize this opportunity?"

          "But what about the indians?" protested Vargas. "What about el Chacol? Bravo?"

          "If there are indians," Moron reasoned, "we turn and flee, but I do not believe that there are indians. The imbecile has probably fallen from his horse. The Jackal has gone to another place... in this world or that other... and, as for the General, Madero has a plan for him. If he is not hanged outright, he will soon be in a position never to harm us again. But we must hurry. I do not believe that they have fixed the engine, but they will be after us by dawn, if not before. Besides the Cabo, alive, ensures our capture. Alone, we can outrun the Federals, but with him..."

          He pointed towards the place where Boleaga had disappeared with his pistol and Vargas nodded, reluctantly.

          "The telegraph is not working," Moron continued, "so, if we can reach Vigia Chico before Bravo while avoiding Akbal, the commander will not know that he is coming. We will tell him that the General has gone, instead, to Payo Obispo and that he is to use the sloop there to take us to him. When we get out in the bay, we throw him to the sharks." Moron smiled as his scheme unfolded like the petals of a flower. "First we will go to Belize, then catch the next steamer to London, where we'll live like kings."

          "But I don't speak a word of English," Vargas protested.

          Moron cursed this discovery of a worm in his precious flower, then laughed. "No matter, we'll go to Spain or, if we cannot wait, Havana. I have a grandfather who was Cuban."

          "That's more like it," Vargas said. "And now, let's take care of the Corporal!"

          They eased their horses through the opening that Boleaga's plunging steed had made and, presently, arrived by a cenote of uncommon size. In its center, imbued with a pale and luminous aurora of moonlight, was a tangled knob of horse, rope and flailing corporal.

          "Is he dead?" whispered Moron, his fantasies of Havana crystallizing with each passing minute.

          "Are you dead?" called Vargas. The knob began to churn water and Boleaga's pale face appeared above the wet brown mat of the horse's belly.

          "No, not yet, damn you, but hurry... I think my leg is broken."

          "Just point the horse towards there," said Vargas, gesturing to the far side of the cenote, where it was possible to gain a foothold. He patted his revolver for its assurance.

          "This horse isn't going anywhere," said Boleaga. He splashed a bit and then raised a machete above his head, resting his elbows on the dead beast to keep his head above water. "I have dealt with him the way I deal with all traitors. Cut some of those trees over there and pull me out!"

          Moron and Vargas set to hacking at two saplings, the noise that they made covering up their furtive, whispered scheming. "Do you see," Moron declared, "he's absolutely crazy! Not only will he demand to ride with one of us, he'll take the reins too. What we're doing isn't robbery, it is saving our skins!"

          And when he and Vargas extended their poles, not towards the Cabo's hand but poking at the dead horse, Boleaga realized their true objective was the saddlebags.

          "Traitors!" he screamed, no longer caring whether indians heard or not. "Murderers!"

          An angry Vargas brought his pole down upon the head of the frenzied Corporal. Boleaga sputtered, but continued cursing as the Sergeants twisted their poles this way and that over the dead horse in an effort to pry the money off.

          "Now you keep quiet," Moron admonished, giving the Corporal a stout blow, which landed on one of his shoulders. "You'll bring the sublevados down upon us."

          "It is not the indians whom you should think of, but General Bravo. He will burn you and hang you both unless you get me out of here at once."

          "Bravo isn't going to help you," Vargas cursed as his pole slipped again off of the horse without hooking his prize. "Even if he survives Madero's firing squad, he's buried treasures all over the territory. He'll just find another tree."

          Again the Corporal raised his machete. "This is my General's gold, the fruit for which we have slaved and fought for and many have died for. If he cannot have it, nobody will," he said defiantly, and brought his arm down to slash crosswise across the saddle with a shriek of pain and vengeance, for his broken leg was pinned in its stirrup and its awkward angle took much of the force from his blows. It took three more cuts before the leather gave and the saddlebags, bearing all of Bravo's gold, sank to the bottom of cenote while the last flailing thrusts of Moron and Vargas landed impotently on the flanks of the dead horse.

          "You'll pay for this," said Moron and he threw his pole aside. Three leaps carried him to his horse and rifle.

          Boleaga saw his death approaching but, after so many years at Bravo's side, even don del Muerte held no fear for him - for, if one is summoned to the Devil, he will know what to say and do if he has served a walking devil in his life. "Nobody says when Pedro Boleaga dies save Pedro Boleaga!" he cried defiantly and, raising his machete to the moon and, inverting it, plunged the blade down into his neck. With a crunch and a fountain of blood his head flopped to one side... the effort causing the dead horse to rotate and with a great sputtering of bubbles, man and animal disappeared beneath the misted surface of the cenote of El Indio Triste.

          "Cabron!" Vargas dropped his pole and sighed. "There goes a man," he admitted.

          "A devil!" Moron angrily retorted, "a little demon, at least, who'll have a good hot seat waiting for the arrival of his master." The mutineer picked his pole up again and began to probe at the cenote, but its bottom was some place much below the tip and, as the pole was half again the height of a man, Moron hurled it down where it presently bobbed up and floated upon the water's surface next to the hat once worn by Boleaga.

          "What now?" Vargas asked, walking towards his horse... no longer dreaming of wealth, of Cuba. Besides his rifle and machete, his pistol and bedroll and the clothes he wore, all that he possessed was four paper pesos and a few cents... and two of the pesos issued by Porfirio Diaz were no longer acknowledged, even in the territory.

          "We'd better avoid Vigia Chico," Moron said, for his was the gambler's faith and one setback augured yet another and another. South of here is a trail towards the road to Bacalar, but I am not eager to enter the Valley of Shadow, no. North, there are chicle camps and if we can exchange these clothes no one will recognize us except Bravo, and I think the General will have his own survival on his mind. He wouldn't dare come after us."

          "I don't care," Vargas said, ever the fearful one. "The General is a deadly enemy and has more lives than a cat. And we can't forget Rivera either."

          "Maybe," Moron answered. "But I rather like our chances... it's better to be pursued by men nearing eighty then thirty, isn't it? A man can make a good wage in the chicle camps if he is careful and who knows... when things have died down we might be able to come back and see if we can reach the bottom of that cenote. Maybe we will get to Cuba after all."

 

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