Rigoberto Macias had passed the sunny April afternoon in court, where was being heard the case against one of Merida's foremost bullfighters. The torero had been charged with assault and murder but the judge, hearing Rigoberto's account of how grievously the man had been provoked and mindful, also, of the witnesses the government had called... who had, one and all, suffered from an abrupt loss of memory... concluded that the man was innocent of all charges, and should be freed at once. As well arrest and jail a great artist as a torero and, though the family and followers of the bullfighter were numerous and grateful, Rigoberto accepted their congratulations quickly and departed; crossing the plaza and walking towards the southeast through the market with its piles of fresh fruit, and tinned and hanging meats. Behind one of these little streets was a red door, which he knocked at, three times, paused, and again knocked twice.

          A half-caste in a dirty shirt admitted him and Rigoberto passed through a dark corridor before emerging into a tiny plaza.

          "Good afternoon, Licenciado," said a stout, bearded man, extending his hand in the North American manner.

          "Profesór," Rigoberto said, his eyes sweeping the patio. Roberto Urzaiz was there, paler than ever, and another of the Caballeros... a tall, thin young man who wore the uniform of a Federal Captain. Also present was a Colonel of the State Militia and a short, dark-complexioned man, Señor Baroja, who performed errands for General Prisciliano Cortes, the new Governor whom Huerta had appointed to Yucatan.

          Rigoberto, of course, no longer traveled with the Caballeros, for a Licenciado must appear to possess the contours of dignity. From time to time he had encountered them, frequently in the course of his profession, for the scrapes they were wont to get themselves into often required the services of an attorney.

          "Now we are five," said the Professor, a historian at the University by the name of Renaldo Salazar, "let us truly begin. I have been offering these others some account of what I learned during my travels in New York and Washington. I shall repeat only the obvious... which I trust you will concur with... that the position of President Huerta is graver than he thinks. The Americans are prepared to invade Mexico, perhaps not to conquer and to occupy... as their Senator Fall, the Guggenheims' latest man desires... but the intent of President Wilson to remove Huerta is clear. What will happen after is less certain, for none of the contending bandit parties... I do not wish to dignify them, but we're going to have to consider at least some legitimate revolutionary threats... has the full support of the Americans. Wilson is perhaps more inclined to Villa as is Hearst, but there is some sentiment on Wall Street that Carranza may be more suitable to the interests of the Yankees. Fortunately there is little sympathy for either Alvaro Obregon or Zapata, and it is safe to predict that neither the industrial socialism of the first nor the agrarianism of the second will be tolerated."

          "I detect the makings of a stalemate," Baroja muttered.

          "That may be the outcome, lacking intervention," Salazar acknowledged. "It is our misfortune that the aggressive nation to our north possesses a superiority in numbers and material and, most of all, its States are indeed United and have been so for nearly half a century, while Mexico is divided among factions. You already know my historical perspective... had we been more aggressive suitors of the Republic of Texas and the Confederacy we might not be facing the situation we are in today... although in, the latter instance, we have the excuse of Napoleon III. Anyway... the Americans have the capacity to gain military victories, even to occupy Mexico City, but then what? Will they be diverted by the isolationists in their Congress? By the worsening situation in Europe? Remember - invasion may not unify all Mexico, but it will unite some of these factions."

          "Then which?" asked Rigoberto.

          "That is what we must ponder," the historian allowed.

          "But is the President's cause so hopeless?" the Colonel now asked. "If he were to strike a bargain with Wilson, he could save himself."

          "But he will not," predicted Rigoberto. "When he was in the Territory, my brother acquired an understanding of the man. He is not, and will never be, Porfirio Diaz. Perhaps no man will ever again approach Don Porfirio's stature. Huerta has too much pride; he'd give his office up and his life before bowing to Wilson. He is lost... within months, probably, a year at the most, and we must make our own plans as if this is already coming to pass. How do you see this situation, Señor Baroja?"

          "Guatemala's interest in this matter remains high, and the President has given me his personal assurance of support should the situation we are working towards come to pass. We intend no less than full unity of all the clericalist sympathizers against those revolutionary elements... which may be likened to Socialism... being carried into Mexico by European influencers.

          "Beware, especially, Carranza!" said Urzaiz, a rude, sudden interruption that caused Salazar to peer disdainfully across the table. "The others may be bandits but this fellow is the Devil's own lieutenant."

          "He has found no following in the south," the Professor predicted, "nor will he. As to our strategy, only Campeche remains doubtful. We have sufficient followers in Chiapas and Tabasco besides, of course, in Yucatan. The former two are ours, so long as we hold out some promise of land redistribution to coax the masses away from Zapata... but at a later time."

          "But what about Campeche? The creature of Huerta's Governor Cortes asked this question with an agitated waving of his hands. "Without Campeche, gentlemen, the whole plan is useless... useless! It would be a knife, posed at the heart of our new republic, a dagger waiting to be driven in and twisted by the eventual survivor in Mexico City."

          "Licenciado Macias has a plan for that."

          "Not yet a plan, Roberto, the genesis of one. Let us not overreach ourselves. Men we can gather, so it is a problem of material, that is, of finance. Well, I've been given information that my brother may be of use.

          "I thought he died," said the militiaman, "or disappeared somewhere into the territory."

          "From what I am given, José has undertaken many confidential errands for Victoriano Huerta," Rigoberto answered. "He has had to withhold certain details, others I am sworn not to reveal, but Huerta's plight, like that of Mexico itself, is perhaps even more apparent to him than to ourselves."

          "But can we place our trust in him?" Baroja asked, trusting the rest enough to show an aspect of disloyalty. "Huerta turned out like all the rest - a Mexican imperialist, worse... he needs the peninsula and its revenues to maintain his Treasury. Why should we place our lives in Huerta's agent's hands?"

          "My brother is sworn to Huerta," Rigoberto acknowledged, "but when the time has come, when it boils down to a choice between a free Yucatan and a Mexico under either Villa or Carranza, he will make the right decision. With the exception of a few incidents, we have maintained peace and progress while the rest of the Republic consumes itself. Mexico is a hindrance... our Republic Sudoriental is nearer the civilized European states in every aspect, more so, even, than are the Americans. It is we who would lift the stature of the United States, whether as a partner or independent ally."

          "Well, I'd drink to that!" said Urzaiz. "Colonel, what is your assessment? Can Huerta pull it out? We wouldn't want to seem in the position of undermining his hold; desperation concorded with betrayal is a combination that could make our situation here that much more difficult."

          The militiaman thought only for a moment. "General Blanquet, whom you may know from his campaigning in the Territory, has the Zapatistas stalemated... he takes a town, the bandits take it back and so forth. Zapata isn't really the problem, he has no designs on Mexico itself, only Morelos. If Huerta were a man of moderate temper he would give it to them but, as with many other things, I fear that this hatred is personal. So resources are drained from the Federals fighting the armies of the North... naming these from the least to most capable, Carranza's, Obregon's and Villa's. They are headed for Torreon, again... a convincing victory and Woodrow Wilson may be pressured into forsaking his sentimental and hypocritical opposition."

          "Which," said Professor Salazar, "is exactly what we do not wish to happen."

          "There is something of a dilemma then," concluded Roberto Urzaiz. "Huerta's Governor here is not so bad, he is really a fine man in many respects, as evidenced by his choice of subordinates." Baroja and the Colonel acknowledged these remarks with polite nods. "Perhaps under Huerta we can achieve, by degree and through negotiation... instead of blood... that which is our destiny. On the other hand, our lives would be intolerable under any of the revolutionists... it would be like having Madero in again, but worse. We wouldn't sleep for wondering whether our servants were sharpening machetes to murder us in our beds. So, we have to continue to prepare for either eventuality... Huerta's recovery or his defeat, in which instance we'll have to seek protection from the United States." An inspiration came to the aging Hermano Mayor. "All those revolutionists... they're in the pay of foreigners, aren't they?"

          "Carranza is partial to Germany," acknowledged Salazar, "Villa to England and the Jews. I don't know much about Obregon, but some have said his name is really O'Brien, he's an Irishman, of sorts."

          "The Irish would line up with socialists in Germany against the British," speculated Urzaiz. "That's another kettle waiting to boil over!"

          "Torreon... that's the ticket," said the militiaman. The Federals have good men, Orantes, Bravo..."

          "Bravo?" Rigoberto started. "Is that the one who was in Quintana Roo for so many years?"

          "I believe it is," the Colonel said.

          "Well! My brother served under him... if anyone could seek out Bravo's capabilities, then, José could..."

          "Can you get a message to him?" inquired Salazar.

          "Perhaps. Until last month, I had had no contact with him in the year since the replacement of Bravo in the territory. José was a Major, he had command of some little Maya village nearer to the coast, and then he sort of slipped away without even a letter until he blows in from Havana... doing God knows what mischief on Huerta's behalf..."

          And the conspirators, each nodding after his own fashion, were silent a moment…