Friday, June 15, 2007


An hour later, Diana sat with Euclid, pretending interest in a plate of cookies. She wasn’t hungry, but toying with her food kept her from having to hold the ugly little man’s sweaty hand. She broke a Maria cookie into pieces, remembering to smile at him from time to time and keep him talking. "Are you sure?,” she said. “My mother says Don Reymundo will protect us from the raiders, and from México Lindo."

"Don't accept any offers from him, if you know what's good for you. You're better off starving or going to a refugee camp. Those raids he says he'll protect you from? He organizes them himself."

Diana suppressed an inward surge of satisfaction. It had taken a lot of flattery and acting dumb to get to this point, but her efforts were finally paying off. "That can't possibly be true. Someone's been telling you stories."

"Hey, I know people who negotiate with México Lindo, and Don Reymundo's name always comes up as a ringleader."

"But why would he want my family's little farm? We don't have much."

Euclid leaned close. "It's part of a larger plan. They're working here too, in this town."

Diana willed herself not to pull away and tried to remember Libby's instructions: keep him interested, but keep him defensive, too. "Aren't you scared?"

"Of course not. We have a plan to stop them."

"Really?" She made herself put a hand on his arm. "You must be very brave."

"A man doesn't have to be brave to stop those damn Mexicans." He watched Diana's face to see how she reacted to this. "We only have to be smarter, and that's not hard. We recently hung a dozen of them up at the lake, and we'll do the same thing to the lot of them."

So that was what had happened at the lake! Diana wanted to ask more, but didn't dare. "How can you possibly get them all? They're so sneaky and clever."

"Don't be silly," Euclid sniffed. "My friends in this town have them convinced that we're about to make a major deal with them and cut them in on all the action. It's a scam, of course, but they're eating it up like freshly made tamales. Damn dirty Mexicans."

"So you're going to kick them out? All of them? Even Don Reymundo?"

"Well," he hesitated. "We can't do anything about Don Reymundo right now." Seeing the disappointment in her eyes he went on, "But we will. Soon. First we're going to pretend to give the Mexicans everything they want, and as soon as they let their guard down..."


"We have a plan."

"What kind of plan?"

"Just a plan. Nothing a pretty girl like you needs to worry herself about. We'll keep you safe as long as you don’t make any deals with Reymundo and his people. Don't worry."

Diana knew she couldn't press for details without arousing suspicion, but now a bigger problem loomed— how to extricate herself? Luckily the band was starting to warm up. She affected a vapid smile. "Oh good, the music is starting. Let's go dance!"

"I'd rather enjoy your company right here, if that's okay."

"But dancing is so much fun."

"Not for me."

Damn. Libby had promised that if she could make it to the dance floor, she'd send someone to cut in on her. But if he refused to dance..."It's easy. I'll show you."

"I'll only embarrass you."

"No you won't." She stood and tugged at his arm. "You're a very brave man. I could never be embarrassed by you. Please?" She tried the line Libby had taught her. "I thought you liked me."

Euclid got reluctantly to his feet. "Of course I like you. It's just that...oh, okay."

He let himself be led to the dance floor in the old basketball pavilion, where already couples were moving to the steady beat of a Mexican cumbia. "This is an easy dance," Diana told him. "Hold me like this and I'll show you." She positioned him properly and showed him the few simple steps. "Now just follow the beat."

To his credit, Euclid tried to do as she instructed, but he had a poor sense of rhythm and his sweaty palms drove Diana to the limits of her patience. When Boeing cut in during the second song and shooed poor Euclid away, she threw her arms around his neck in gratitude. "Thank you for rescuing me. Did Libby send you?"

"She told me to keep an eye out and cut in if I saw you dancing with a rat-faced guy from Morton's team." He grinned. "How'd it go?"

"In terms of information, fantastic, but he's an awful person. I felt dirty lying to him and encouraging him to glom onto me like that."

"I know the feeling." Boeing moved her through the crowd to put as much distance between her and sulking Euclid as possible. "On your aunt's advice I started talking to a Zuni girl whose face could've stopped a rockslide. By the time I figured out she was even dumber than she looked, she had decided I was her dream man and I thought I'd never get away. I don't care what your aunt says. I'm sticking with the pretty girls from now on. Even if they don't know any more than the ugly ones, at least they're fun."

"Maybe now that I've gotten a little practice, I can graduate to fun people, too."

"Actually, you can probably get more information from guys like the one you were with. Your aunt is right about that. It's just..."

"I know. We spend months out there, away from everything."

"Makes it hard to come to a party and spend the whole time working."

"Yeah, if you're the type of person who likes these sorts of things."

"Are you not having a good time?" He pulled her close.

"Not really." She tried to put a little more distance between them. "I've been called names by a México Lindo girl, I got hit on by Carlos the Casanova, and I had to flatter and hold hands with that hateful racist, Euclid. So no, I can't say it's been a lot of fun."

"Is it fun now, though?"

He was trying to pull her close again, but she resisted. "Not with you trying that, it's not."

"Of course you're not going to have much fun, if that's your attitude. You're just a prissy little girl who hasn't grown up yet, aren't you?"

"I am not."

"Kiss me and prove it."

"I don't like you that way."

"Consider it practice for the guy you do end up liking that way."

"Keep this up and I might have to have a little accident at our next target practice."

"And I might have to have one at our next wrestling practice."

Before Diana could make a suitably cutting remark, Sputnik came over. He narrowed his eyes at Boeing. "Go find someone with information we can use. I need this young lady's report."

Boeing stepped aside. "I was just leaving."

The beat of the music changed to something slower. Diana hesitated, but Sputnik’s respectful demeanor reassured her and she put her arms around his neck. "I'm so glad you're here. Why does every man have to make things complicated?"

"I'm afraid it's just our nature."

"Does that mean you're going to hit on me, too?"

"No. I'm not stupid."

Diana was afraid of what she might figure out if she parsed the meaning of that remark, so she let it go. "Did you find Patton? Did you tell him about the Mexicans?"

"Yes, and he was very interested, although not surprised. What did you find out from Morton's man?"

Sputnik was a graceful dancer. Diana leaned into him, and after checking who was within earshot, told him what she had found out. "It looks like Morton's only stringing them along," she finished.

"That's interesting, and totally unexpected. We'll want to corroborate your information, but I have a feeling what he says is correct."

"I only wish I'd been able to find out what their actual plan is."

"Yes, but it's not the sort of thing he would've been likely to divulge, no matter how well you charmed him. You were wise not to press the issue." For a moment he looked like he wanted to say more, but then thought better of it. "I'm afraid I have to leave. I need to pass this information along, and Euclid knows who I am, so I shouldn't spend much time with you in a place where he might see me. We may need you to ask him a few more questions."

"Please, no."

"It's all for the cause. If it will help, I'll hand you off to our embedded Lone Star man. I think you'll enjoy dancing with him for a bit."

"We have someone embedded with Lone Star?" While Diana pondered this information, he led her to where a tall blond man was dancing with an Isleta girl. As soon as he could catch the man's eye, Sputnik gave a signal. The man gave a slow, barely perceptible nod of his head.

"He'll be over in a minute," Sputnik said. "Be sure to enjoy yourself, but don't stay out here too long. We'd still like you to mingle among the Apache. They're avoiding the dancing tonight, and we're curious if it's a Nativist thing or if something bigger is going on."

Diana let Sputnik move her around the dance floor a little longer. Finally the blond man in cowboy garb walked up to them and gave Sputnik a knowing grin. "A little bird told me this here filly needs a new dance partner."

Diana was letting the spy lead her away when suddenly she stopped and ran back to Sputnik. "Hey." She threw her arms around his neck and kissed him before she could have a chance at second thoughts.

Sputnik smiled, but with the air of a man who didn't put much stock in casual affection. "Have a good time, dear.” Then he moved off into the crowd.

1 comment:

Alice Audrey said...

Ah, but if he did put much stock in, she probably wouldn't have done it.

Wow, this party is just rife with intrigue.