THE INSURGENCE of CHAN SANTA CRUZ
BOOK NINE: BOOK of the JAGUAR PRIEST
CHAPTER FORTY FIVE
Time brought the returning General ever closer to his city of the Holy Cross. The train from Merida terminated at the town of Peto at three in the morning, leaving the Tatoob to pass one of the most uncomfortable hours of his life. "I have been singled out to be assassinated," he said to Octaviano Solis more than once, and he waited at the station with his back against the wall; the watch Carranza had given to him in his hand ticking down the minutes until the little Decauville to Santa Cruz was loaded with provisions and ready to depart.
They were, to the relief of the suspicious Tatoob, the only passengers.
"How is that reckoned?" asked the Colonel, who was most displeased to hear such talk... for reason that when a thought is spoken aloud, he believed, such utterance brings it that much closer to realization. He reached for his pistol. "Do you know who these assassins are?"
Silvestro turned a pitying smile upon Solis. "Does this matter? I am a great man, and it is the curse of great man that those who envy them send assassins." And he shook his head as if viewing a moving picture of his life and death. "Socrates and Caesar and the American, Abram Lincoln. Madero, Juarez and Hidalgo... all taken away."
Such tragic vanity made Solis sneeze and he wished for even a simple refreshment, some shaved ice and fruit syrup. Maria was sprawled atop a bed of baggage, stirring as a breath of the moon lifted the Tatoob's words away; sitting up, fussing with her hair. Confined to a cardboard box into which holes had been punched, her little dog barked dismally.
"Where are... do you think that this hat is proper?" she asked Solis, for Silvestro had inched further along, looking for assassins. "First impressions are so very important and I do want these people to know that I am a lady... the Governor's wife... without appearing too stuck up." And Pablito commenced even stronger barking from the box in which he had been placed.
"They will be fond of you, no matter which you choose," the Colonel said. But, to humor her, he expressed a preference for a brown, conical straw hat which would be less obtrusive, as well as providing more shade than some of the flat Parisian headpieces of shrieking colors and exotic feathers.
"I cannot move," Silvestro said when the Ingenario of the Decauville came to tell them to bring their bags. This was a professional, a half-indian Mexican from Tamaulipas who had come to Santa Cruz as a prisoner... a collaborator with bandits... but had been given a good job on the railroad by Garcilazo and, to date, had escaped the notice of the noveau regime. After the Mexicans departed he'd remained behind, for who knew what enemies remained in his home state, adjacent to that of a President who had a great dislike of thieves as vulgar competitors. And, since the plague, he had taken a wife and two mistresses, had children by all, and was as respectable a fellow as any dzulob, or half dzulob, could be in the Territory. The Cruzob had recognized him as Superintendent of Railways; a job that consisted of steering the Decauville west to Peto and back, or east to Vigia Chico, and giving orders to the boys who loaded baggage and sat upon it with their rifles to drive off bandits.
"Set out a thief to catch a thief," Porfirio Diaz had said in establishing the Rurales, and Silvestro had followed this advice. But even his own engineer could be the lurking Judas, the Brutus with his dagger.
"You've faced death long enough," the Colonel said, patting the Tatoob on the shoulder. "After so many years, it should become second nature."
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