Getting Ready For Guests
While the band of Black Rock People butchered and cooked the three beeves Abuela allowed them, Esther May checked her Colt .44 and strapped it on.
She made sure her Henry repeating rifle was loaded and stashed at the side of the buckboard where she could walk up, reach over, and grab it.
Another Plate, Please
Despite his protests that they were enemies, Tsúyé, the Apache leader, heartily ate a breakfast of biscuits soaked in bacon grease, along with strips of bacon and strong coffee.
When his tin plate of food was almost gone, and Tsúyé showed no sign of slowing down, Alejandro rushed to heat beans and tortillas.
Abuela sat nearby and waited for Tsúyé to finish. “He eats first,” she whispered to Esther May, “then me.”
“You already had breakfast,” Esther May said quietly, trying not to move her lips.
“This shows he is el jefe.”
“Are we in danger?”
“I don’t know. Once their bellies are full, they may kill us.”
Gather Your Guns
Esther May met Alejandro at his chuck wagon. “Keep a shotgun handy.”
“Si, senorita. I also have a Yellow Boy under the seat,” he patted his belt, “and this. But I don’t think one big knife will help much against treinta Indians.”
“More like fifty than thirty, or don’t you think women and children can kill you?”
Alejandro flashed her a white-toothed smile and said, “Let’s talk no more of killing and enjoy our guests, eh?”
Know Your Enemy
While the women cooked, the men joined in a lively discussion.
Esther May needed to listen to know their intentions but didn’t know how to eavesdrop without giving away the fact that she could speak Apache.
Not Too Subtle, But …
Back at the wagon, she dug through a pouch for a hand mirror. With her back turned to the People across the stream, she pretended to examine her face while watching and listening.
The men were too far away.
Esther May nibbled at her bottom lip and decided. She picked up a clean plate and walked to the stream, knelt, and pretended to wash it.
“So that’s Riding Woman. Looks like a regular washing woman.”
“The old Mimbreño woman said she’s a killer.”
“Pah. She can’t even kill the dirt on her face.”
“She has a gun.”
“And I have this.” One of the young men made an obscene gesture.
“You talk big, but never do anything.”
“I can grab her right now.”
“Go on, then.”
Esther May tried to look casual, but her mind was a jumble as the Indian approached.
She might be able to shoot this one brave and make it back to their leader.
She could hold their chief hostage until she, Abuela, and Alejandro got out of the canyon.
No, that wouldn’t work. She wouldn’t last long enough to harness the mules.
Esther May rose, and the Indian’s step faltered, but he kept coming.
She was going to have to draw. But even if the Apache backed down, he’d lose face and become an enemy.
Esther May took a breath. She still held the plate in one hand and the mirror in the other.
She turned the mirror so it reflected sunlight into the eyes of the approaching man.
He stopped and jerked his head back as if he’d been pushed in the forehead.
Esther May stepped across the stream and walked past the startled warrior.
She chose the woman that seemed to direct the others and handed her the plate and mirror.
The woman’s eyes, almost as big as the plate, flickered from Esther May to the gifts, to the lone man still standing by the stream. Finally, she smiled and said, “Gracias.”
Esther May smiled and nodded. She turned, walked past the boaster, and went back to her camp.
Has Riding Woman made her point? Tell us what you think.
Mirrors in the southwest have a short but fascinating history. Check out this article.
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