THE INSURGENCE of CHAN SANTA CRUZ
BOOK SEVEN: CUAHTENOTL EPACT
Aureliano Blanquet, the old scourge of Maximilian and incendiary of countless inhabitants of Quintana Roo... the guilty and hapless alike... never even reached Veracruz to engage the luckless Felicistas. He and his fifteen hundred men got no further than Orizaba and... there... received orders to return to Mexico City and, thence, go north to resume the campaign against Orozco. With their departure, the Federal railroad system was re-opened from the Gulf Coast to the capital and José finally booked passage thereto, changing trains at Orizaba. His true destination, however, was the remote little town of San Sebastien in which, Rico had assured him, dwelt Kanegis, a man in a red shirt who swore that he knew of the location of El Chacol.
Needless to say, the Major's tone... if not the directness of his words... insinuated to the information-seller that such person had better be in San Sebastien, and with information of value, or else Rico, himself, would do well to find another corner of the world to inhabit.
José carried only a small, brown leather traveling bag... well-worn, acquired from a street vendor in Havana's old city who asked five Mexican pesos and accepted three. In it were a change of clothes, a .455 inch automatic pistol manufactured by Webley-Scott of London, a smaller Browning 7.65, identification papers for one Jorge Bustamente of Chiapas (and, concealed, a second set for a Dr. Raul Ponce Navarette, of Campeche), a quantity of Maderist pesos, American dollars and British pounds and such, miscellaneous items for shaving and sanitation, a freshly published Bible and a well worn copy of the Collected Tales and Verse of E. A. Poe. Cuba itself having become unsafe owing to riots stemming from their own election, to be held a few days before the Americans'... bullets riddling the American Club opposite the headquarters for the conservative candidate for governorship of Havana... General Bravo had moved on to other endeavors on behalf of Felix Diaz and Mister Tymmonds had disappeared altogether. Since his ignominious surrender, the dictator's nephew had been court-martialed and sentenced to death, the Supreme Court reversing the sentence, then reversing their reversal. Madero seemed unable to make up his mind so Diaz, like Bernardo Reyes, enjoyed the hospitality of the Mexican penal system.
North of the Rio Grande, Col. Roosevelt returned to the campaign trail and... proving again that tragedy or near-tragedy is inevitably followed by farce... a mischievous boy drilled President Taft with his peashooter in the town of Corry, Pennsylvania before escaping into the crowd.
Orizaba is nearly three miles above sea level and José shivered in the thin overcoat he had brought from tropical Veracruz... the attenuated quality of the atmosphere hampering his respiration, causing him to break into fits of coughing despite the many cigarettes rolled and smoked and cups of coffee with rum consumed. By the time that the train to Mexico City was ready, somewhat before noon, the brilliant blue of the mountain skies had become increasingly streaked with gray wisps of clouds, heralding the approach of one of those storms that blow in from over the Pacific... as the train dodged south and west, following the line of least resistance along the easternmost spine of the Oriental Sierras, a damp, crepuscular fog gathered in the valleys of descent while, when his Pullman Palace car occasionally poked its snout above this gloomy soup, all that the Major could behold was a sky of the leaden pallor of bullets with, as the evening fell, a pale and sinister translucence that was Lord Kin's consort, Ix Chel, one day past her fullness.
A porter having informed him of the nearness of San Sebastien at about the time that the train suddenly lurched downward and appeared, almost, to be falling off its tracks, José waited in the space between cars, catching glimpses of huge, fantastic shapes lodged on the hillside between scrawny pines and in a valley beneath. It was some minutes past nine, according to his pocket watch, never absolutely reliable. "They are the remnants of great ferias," the porter replied to José's inquiry, "...the Centennial, the anniversary of the Liberator's birth, even some pieces from the Fin del Siglo, nearly thirteen years gone. President Diaz, himself, asked that very same question on his last ride out of the capital," the porter added, as if to impress José with his knowledge of time, celebrity and arithmetic.
"We have passed the summit of that chain of peaks that includes the Lady and her novio," he explained, referring to the volcanoes Ixtacihuatl... the Lady, more than five thousand meters high... and her even taller consort, Popocatepetl. "At the conclusion of the ferias, there was a grand parliament of garbage, señor, including the displays, floats, costumes and much apparatus from pavilions established for the amusement of the people. If only every day were a holiday..." the porter sighed, "but, then, how would the work of Mexico be done? And when don Porfirio's holiday was over, all this..." and he gestured out into the night "...must be removed from its warehouses and cellars, so President Madero declared. And there is not enough coal in Hell itself to be burned that will get so much debris over the mountains... they take it as far away from the capital as they can, to that flat stretch of track just outside La Cumbre, our previous stop, and then... oof! Empujo fuera de la montana. There are people living in this miserable village, Cuahtenotl... up a trail from San Sebastien... who have nothing but what they can earn combing through this garbage of Mexico...
"Are you leaving us here?" the porter added as the train slowed and a great assembly of skeletal, ravenous dogs burst out from the monte. "Your ticket is valid on through to the capital."
"I am a businessman," José replied, "and I go where I detect opportunities." The porter nodded although, if the truth be told, he hadn't the slightest idea what kind of business could draw a man to such place as San Sebastien, and José leaped from the steps before the train had even stopped moving. This gesture seemed to take the boldest of the curs who had mounted the platform by surprise, and one of them skidded too close to the Major, who delivered a swift, brutal kick to its slatted ribs; whimpering and limping, it backed off, and its fellows backed away too.
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