Thursday, July 26, 2007


The sun cast a soft glow across the desert when the Lone Star women led the Unitas men into their camp. A few of the Texans reached for their weapons, but Jane shook her head and they made no move to fire. Instead they fell in around them in a loose formation that was equal parts capture and honor guard.

"This is a peaceful parley," Harley said. "We're here to see Bonham and Ellie Mae."

While one man went in search of their leaders, a tall blond man parked himself near Harley. "Y'all ain't messed with our girls, have you?"

"They didn't lay a hand on us," Jane said.

The Lone Star men murmured their approval and the man who had first spoken gave Harley a faint nod. Behind him, Boeing caught the look and recognized him from the party in San Eusebio. "We don't hurt women," he said in a voice loud enough that all the nearby soldiers would hear.

"That's good, 'cause we don't tolerate no disrespect, either."

Jane led them to a large social campfire and sent her companions to unload their goods so the camp supporters could prepare breakfast. "Tell them we'll be feeding five more," she told the dark-haired girl, who smiled slyly at Boeing as she removed the panniers from her horse and headed toward the chow crew.

Jane twisted around in her saddle. "If you want to dismount," she told Harley, "I can arrange for your horses to be looked after."

Harley cast a glance toward their embedded man, a question in his eyes.

"Me and my friends would be happy to put them up for you," he said, with a small negative shake of the head.

"No, thank you," Harley said. "We'll wait."

It took several minutes, but finally a small entourage of soldiers approached from the other side of the camp. "Bonham says he'll see you," one of them said, reaching for the bridle of Harley's horse.

"You don't need to grab on. I requested this meeting, so I'm not going anywhere."

Chastened, the young man dropped his hand.

He led them through the campground, where men and women, young and old, paused at their work or in the middle of their sleepy, early-morning conversations to stare. Although most of them were white, there were a few blacks and Vietnamese, as well as several Hispanics who could have been Tex-Mex or native Southwestern turncoats. It was growing harder with each passing year to separate loyalties from ethnicity. Allegiances shifted. Friendships and even romances flourished across group lines. It was the sort of chaos that gave groups like Unitas hope.

Harley's men were surprised to find a stern young woman with obviously Apache features guarding Bonham's tent. Will greeted her in Apache, but got only a puzzled frown in reply. He couldn't tell if it meant she didn't speak the language, didn't understand his dialect, or was simply too surprised to return his greeting. Instead, she stepped aside, pulled open the tent flap and the Texan guide went in alone. A few seconds later, he reemerged. "Two of you can go in," he said. "Unarmed."

Harley swung off his horse and motioned for Will to do the same. They removed their weapons and handed everything to Boeing and Aguilero. Just before they went inside, Harley turned to Coyote.

"What do you think?"

Coyote had been looking around, tipping his head from side to side like a small dog. "They're not talking," he said. "But I think it's clear."

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1 comment:

Alice Audrey said...

What a strange procession - going in so officially when you have no idea what you're going in for.