Dust settled on my jacket while I waited for the Mexicans in the rocks on either side of the pass to put away their rifles. They thought I couldn’t see them, and I couldn’t. That didn’t stop me from knowing they were there, rifles trained on me, sweat on their brows, finger twitching with fear on the trigger, one false move away from oblivion. My horse swayed and stepped uneasily beneath me. He sensed that something was wrong, but how could I convince him that 6 untrained Mexican farm boys hiding in the rocks with second-hand rifles pointed at me were no match? He would just have to wait until the smoke cleared. Or the paunchy middle aged man who seemed to be their leader came to his senses and called off his boys. I didn’t mind spilling some blood that day, but it would slow me down and I needed to be on my way. Someone was expecting me, and she wouldn’t take kindly to being made to wait. Men had died for less.
My hands held the reins, my rifle strapped to the side of the horse, my pistols in their belt. None of them were loaded. No need to carry the extra weight.
Dressed in dirty, worn clothes that at one point had been colorful and fine, the paunchy Mexican with hair black as pitch stepped forward. “My friend! I have been looking for you! It is odd for you to be riding during the day, si?”
“Si, yes! Soy yo! And you, my friend, very hard to find!”
“Maybe you did not want to be found, I think! But Valravano is hard to trick!”
“Can’t trick you, Miguel.”
“No no, but we must talk, Rider.”
“Can’t talk now. I got business up ahead.”
Valravano let out a hearty laugh and slapped his thigh, sending up a puff of dust. “Is this any way to treat a friend? I have important things to talk to you about!”
“It’ll have to wait.”
“I cannot wait, friend. You know this.”
“Now, I don’t want to kill your boys up there, but I will.”
Valravano shot me a disgusted look which cracked and turned into a smirk. He turned and faced the pass and shouted, “Niños! Vengan!” Five boys, none older than 17, stood and lowered their weapons. They stood and watched me and Valravano. “You are very good,” he said, “for a man with one eye,” and pointed to his own. “I knew once another man with just one eye. He was like you, friend, surrounded by fighting and death. My brother and I knew him well.”
“I’ll be on my way then.”
“Fine fine. This time it is yours. But I will see you again soon. I have been looking a long time for you.”
“Not if I can help it, Miguel,” I put the spurs to my horse. He wasted no time heading down the trail. As we passed the boys on the rocks, their eyes followed me. I made eye contact with one, raised my hand in a crude semblance of a pistol, and fired.