Pay A Visit
Esther May strapped on her pistol and made sure the Henry rifle had at least seven rounds in the extended magazine. A rope sling was all she had, but it would do to carry the repeater.
Following Abuela’s advice, Esther May used only a hackamore on the gelding. She would ride bareback.
Esther May led the horse to the wagon where the wheel hub would be a step to help her mount the animal. Esther May grabbed a handful of mane but hesitated.
Are You Sure?
She glanced at the bodies of the men who came to do harm, then sought confirmation from Abuela.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to stay and help bury these two?”
Abuela waved the question away. “Go, Riding Woman. Make sure two more don’t come after us.”
Abuela was right. Now was the time to move, while the advantage was hers.
Esther May let the gelding walk slowly across the dark Gila River and toward the vaquero’s camp. She hoped the small herd was grouped in front of her so she could slip in among them to cover her approach.
The cattle weren’t where she needed them. They must have been lying under the trees on the riverbank. Esther May had an unobstructed view of the chuck wagon’s silhouette to the right of a small campfire. The shadow of a man passed in front of the fire.
Time To Creep
At an ocotillo, Esther May slid off her horse, tied him, and unslung her rifle. In a crouch, she snuck toward the camp.
The men were sitting by the fire where a pot hung on a spit.
“I wish Emilio had let Alejandro cook something before beating the old man. Now, look at him. He can’t make supper.”
“It’s not so bad,” said a second man. “We got beans. See? They’re hot now.”
“Beans and no tortillas,” said the first. “I want bread. Do you think we should try to get Alejandro up and moving?”
Here’s What You Should Do
“Why don’t you stay where you are?” Esther May said from the edge of the firelight. She chambered a round in the rifle and aimed it at them.
Both men leaped to their feet.
“Don’t move,” Esther May warned them. “All I want to do is talk.”
“Ah, the wagon lady,” said one. “So, Alvaro failed. More for us.”
One vaquero sidestepped behind the other. Esther May could partially see him.
She aimed the Henry at the first man’s breastbone. “If that man behind tries anything, I’ll have to shoot through you to get him.”
The man in front twisted his upper body to see what Esther May talked about. “Luis, get up here and don’t try anything … yet.”
Esther May dipped the rifle barrel. “Why don’t you sit down, and I’ll tell you what’s going to happen.”
Neither man moved. “Perhaps Carlos and I should tell you what’s going to happen,” Luis said.
Esther May felt sweat slide from her armpits. The rifle stock was slippery in her grasp. Clearly, the men were not going to pack up and leave as she’d hoped. Instead, Luis was again sidling, but away from his fellow herder this time.
“I’m only going to tell you once,” Esther May said. “Get back and sit down.”
Luis grinned, gave up his subtle movements, and took two full steps widening the distance between him and Carlos. He stretched his arms wide. “Ah, senorita—”
Esther May’s bullet went through him above his belt. Luis folded and fell straight down.
A yell from Carlos as he went for his gun caused Esther May to swing toward him. He ducked and crab-stepped as he fired.
Esther May returned fire and missed.
Carlos shot again.
Esther May felt heat pass her face at the roar of Carlos’ gun. Suddenly she was bareheaded. Her hat had taken flight of its own accord.
A calm settled over her as she took careful aim at the center of Carlos’ chest.
He fired before she could pull the trigger. Her right leg flew backward. Somehow she was on the ground, not even facing her attacker.
Esther May’s calmness remained. So this was what it felt like when you got to put away all your earthly troubles? Her leg didn’t hurt. It only felt strange like it was vibrating.
She was disoriented, but aware that Carlos still shot.
One – two – three more rounds. She didn’t feel their impact.
Can Esther May survive? Leave your thoughts here.
Here is a rather long but engaging article about near death experiences, NDEs.
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