Cenizo Journal Spring 2023 - Page 11

The lieutenant had trained his own field glasses on the desert vista . " Looks like six or eight pursuing riders ." Elkins stowed his field glasses in his saddle pack . " Well , gentlemen ," he said , " our trip to Chihuahua is becoming slightly more complicated ." He glanced at the lieutenant with a raised eyebrow . " What is your pleasure , Lieutenant ?" The young army officer sighed and met his gaze . " Let us wait for the riders with the pack animals — they do not appear to be hostile , and they may have intelligence that will be useful ." Elkins was silent . He had reservations , but the presence of others on the trail with unknown intentions left few options . The party remounted and waited . The sound of shod hooves clambering up the trail through the steep-walled arroyo had begun to echo from the canyon mouth opening onto the high meadow .
The four riders formed a semi-circle , with carbines drawn . Minutes passed as the sound of shod hooves on the rocky trail grew louder ; then the two riders with the pack animals behind emerged from the canyon mouth and jerked their mounts to a surprised halt at the sight of the four mounted men . " Ay !" the woman exclaimed , as she reined in her horse , which half reared . Elkins took in the slender frame , the dark hair bundled under a flat-brimmed leather hat , the dust-and sweatrimed leather riding garb , and the fine conformation of the blooded horse she rode . Behind her , also well -mounted, was an older man , grey-bearded , but powerfully built , wearing a sombrero with a chinstrap . He saw that both were armed .
The horses of the four riders confronting the new arrivals stamped edgily under their riders ' tight reins . The woman and her companion were reaching for the carbines slung behind their saddles . " Somos amigos !" the young lieutenant declared , holding out a restraining palm . The new arrivals hesitated and regarded the four with questioning looks .
" A donde van ?" Elkins asked . The woman , eyebrows raised , replied , " We are going to Chihuahua ." Her tone had a note of arrogance , as if she were saying , " I can speak to you in English , gringos ."
" Likewise ," Elkins said in an even tone ; " and who are your pursuers ?" The woman glanced quickly back down the canyon , as if to gauge the proximity of the group behind them . " They are cutthroats of Ysidro Resendez ," she said with contempt .
Elkins frowned . " No friends of ours ," he said . Already , the sound of the pursuing horsemen entering the mouth of the canyon below was echoing up through the rocky path . " You are safer with us ," said the lieutenant , as the group turned their horses into the trail . The woman glanced at her older companion , who nodded in assent . The two moved quickly onto the trail ascending at a more level rate into the mountains , with the two pack animals , impressively large mules , following . The heavy leather packs on the two mules had not escaped Elkin ' s attention , and in particular , the embossed letter ‘ T ’ tooled into the pouches with heraldic flourish . '' Terrazas ," he surmised to himself — the most powerful family in northern Mexico , whose ranches were alleged to contain the state of Chihuahua . Elkins had his own doubts that the new " friends " were a welcome addition to their party or that his own group would be safer with the addition of the new members . " The die is cast ,'' he thought .
Mario rode to Elkin ' s side ; " Jaime ," he said urgently , and motioned toward the mountains with a sharp gesture of his chin . Elkins turned to the mountainous horizon and said , " Yes ." He also had noticed the dark gathering of storm clouds higher up , which had now dissolved the serrated rims of the Sierra into a purple mass , lit with angry and distant lightning . " All the more reason to cross the arroyo with mucha prisa ," he said to Mario . Andres , the younger of the two brothers , broke in . " Jaime — I will stay behind and fire two shots as they approach la puerta to give them a reason to delay exiting from the canyon ." Elkins looked at Mario , who nodded assent . " Agreed ," he said to Andres , " but only two shots , from a concealed location , and then follow us quickly !" Andres nodded and flashed a gleaming smile . He guided his horse behind the rocky ramparts bordering the mountain meadow , as Elkins and Mario spurred their horses in pursuit of the lieutenant and the two riders with the pack animals .
The party descended into and across the floor of the arroyo as rapidly as the rocky footing permitted , then up the bank , where the trail curved and continued higher into the Sierra . As they reached the upper bank , Elkins heard the two shots , spaced about a minute apart . He motioned the others to continue up the trail , and waited to see Andres emerge from the rocks on the other side of the arroyo . Andres stood up in his stirrups and urged his wiry mare down and across the dry stream bed with his quirt . Elkins saw the lead pursuer spurring his mount furiously as Andres ' s horse lunged up the side of the arroyo . The pursuing bandolero descended with a clatter into the rocky stream bed , heedless of the uneven surface , and heedless of the ominous roar from upstream which was growing unmistakably louder . The bandolero had drawn his revolver and was raising his arm to fire as Andres ' s horse topped the rise of the opposite bank . In the instant before he could fire , a wall of brown water exploded around the upstream bend of the arroyo . The bandolero ' s horse screamed as the flood engulfed them . Elkins watched as the bandolero was flung from the saddle ; he glimpsed a flash of sunlight on the rowel of the rider ' s spur before rider and horse vanished in the maelstrom .
On the opposite bank , the other pursuers had reined in their mounts moments before the flash flood exploded into the crossing . Now they gathered in bewilderment , cursing as their horses danced in agitation at the brink of the abyss . They were beginning to draw guns and scan the opposite bank for their quarry . " Time to get out of range ," Elkins thought , as he gestured for Andres to hasten ahead to the trail bend with its protective rock wall . Their companions were by now out of sight at higher reaches of the trail . Then Elkins noticed that the woman had positioned her horse on a promontory beside the trail , protected from sight of the other bank , but with a view of the crossing . She clearly had seen the wall of water and its destruction of the lead pursuer . Now she quickly wheeled her horse onto the trail and spurred it up the slope , as Elkins waved her past . As she flashed past him , Elkins registered the expression on her face : triumph , determination , and — contempt . He glanced toward the ravine . The flood continued through the arroyo unabated ; it would be a formidable barrier for a time . And night was imminent ; already , violet shadows were gathering in the folds of the Sierra as the afternoon light faded . Elkins touched heels to his horse ' s flanks and urged his mount up the trail . �

Cenizo Spring 202311