Monday, June 4, 2007


Amalia rose early and went to help with breakfast. Although the coffee hadn't finished boiling and the sky was still dark, word of the previous night's adventure had filtered through the camp and everyone who wasn’t on watch was huddled around the fire, whispering.

"Maybe it was Lone Star," Aguilero said. "They gave me and my family a hard time when we tried to go east to escape the drought five years ago."

"Lone Star may be mostly white," Pepsi said, "But they don't usually kill people for being some other race. I have a cousin with them and he says anyone can join. Even Mexicans."

Aguilero looked at her doubtfully.

"Maybe it was just drug runners killing each other," Ikea offered. “Sometimes they get so jumped up on their stuff they don’t hardly know what crazy thing they’re doing until they’ve done it.”

"No, it had to have been an Aryan group," Boeing said. "It sounds like their kind of work."

"How do you know? Did Coyote say there were crosses or something?"

"He didn't say much of anything. Harley put him on watch."

"The Aryans are a small group," Dell said in her practical way. "Hanging people in the forest wouldn't accomplish what they’re after, which is scaring people into thinking they're more powerful than they are."

"I guess you've got a point. If it hadn't been for Coyote's nose, or whatever it was, they might not have been found for years. Or ever."

"There's something else going on."

"I'd be curious to know what it is," Aguilero said. "I hope Harley sends me to check it out."

"You know he will. He'll want you to track where the people who did it went." Pepsi shivered and hugged herself. "I hope he doesn't send me. It's one thing to shoot a guy who's trying to kill you, but a row of people hanging from the trees? That's just creepy." She looked at Amalia, who was silently setting out cups. "Does this mean the coffee is ready?"

"If you can all quit talking long enough to drink it."

If they noticed the irritation in her voice, they gave no sign and began filling cups and passing them around. They huddled over the thin, bitter brew and continued to speculate as to who had been hanged, and why.

Amalia tried to ignore them as she poured coffee into a bottle, then placed the bottle, some food and a couple of mugs in a basket. She set off down the beach toward where Diana had been stationed.

The sun was just peeking over the mountains, casting a pink glow upon the water, when she found the girl sitting on a rock, yawning as she scanned the tree line through a pair of binoculars. She perked up at the sight of Amalia.

"Did you bring me some coffee?"

"Yes, although I don’t know that you deserve it."

"Sure I do." Diana rummaged through the basket and poured some coffee for herself. She sniffed it appreciatively before taking a sip, then she frowned.

"Burned your tongue, didn’t you?"

She set the cup aside. "I guess it’ll be cool enough in a minute." She looked through the basket again, taking out a hard-boiled egg, a bit of dried fruit, a tortilla from the previous night's dinner, and some cheese.

"You shouldn't be so impatient."

"It’s only a burnt tongue."

"That’s not what I meant."

"I know." Diana cracked the egg and picked off bits of shell. "It's just that I have a feeling where this conversation is about to go. I’m not a kid any more, and you’re not my mother."

"So you like to remind me. I just worry about you, okay? That was a foolish thing you did last night and if Coyote had been wrong, you might’ve gotten hurt."

"Will was with me."

"You shouldn’t count on him to look out for you all the time."

"I don't. Sometimes I look out for him. It's mutual."

Amalia fell silent while the girl ate her sparse breakfast as if it were a feast. "Diana, you’re good at what you do, but you're too confident. You're going to get in trouble someday, and you won't have Will at your back."

"I'm more careful than you think." She sipped her coffee, which was cooler now.

"I hope so, but would you at least try to obey camp rules? This is our best chance of getting Strecker, or don't you care about that any more?"

Diana's eyes narrowed. "I care. I promised I’d shoot him someday, and I will. With or without the group's help."

Amalia gave her a kiss and picked up the basket.

"Are you going to take Will his breakfast now?"

"Yes. And no, you can't have his coffee."

"That's not what I was going to ask." She dug in her pocket and produced a scrap of tightly folded paper. "Give him this for me. But don't read it."

Amalia dropped the note in her basket. The silly girl had been sending notes to Will since they were neighbors in the valley, even though it served no useful purpose. If it hadn't been for her, Will would have probably remained functionally illiterate. It was only out of love that he had become competent with the written word. "Anything else?"

"No." Diana picked up her binoculars and scanned the horizon. "Just let me know what they find out know."

1 comment:

Alice Audrey said...

I see all kind of interesting directions this could go. Nice foreshadowing.