Chapter Twenty

This entry is part 20 of 36 in the series Bend

Chapter Twenty

There is an old saying; it is always darkest before the dawn. This certainly held true this morning, Al thought. They had decided not to move until daylight. They had dragged the girl’s boat far up the sandy bank. The girl was put into it and the three men stood guard. The girl was well protected and she certainly could not escape. Al was determined that she was going to come up with some answers before he turned her loose.

Al’s mind was in turmoil. Who was this girl? Why did she try to kill him? On thing for sure, she was the one! He had branded her. She seemed in a state of shock. Maybe when daylight came she would snap out of it. He hoped so.

Pio had heard her talking to the innkeeper at Quilali. “She is not a native of this part of the country,” He said. “She comes from the city.”

‘She is certainly a girl of mystery,’ Al thought, also a very beautiful one. Even in a state of shock she held her head high. She certainly had poise.

Al’s mind turned to the dead man lying out there. The man had intended to kill him that was for certain. In one more second he would have pulled the trigger. Ether Nocho or Pio had saved his life, which one was it? So far neither of them had said anything about the shooting. Al wondered why.

Suddenly an alarming thought entered his head. Pio and Nocho were both carrying 22-caliber pistols. That shot came from a rifle, a big one! It had about tore the dead mans head off! Could he be mistaken? He had better find out for sure.

“Pio,” he kept his voice low. “Did you fire a shot awhile ago?” The man shook his head.

“How about you Nocho?”

“No Señor, I heard the shot. I thought it was you.”

Cold beads of sweat broke out on Al’s forehead. Someone else was out there. Someone with a big rifle and he knew how to use it! Whoever it was had saved his life. That was for sure. On the other hand, that shot could have been fired at him. They had been standing close together. It had been quite dark. Maybe the guy got them mixed up. Maybe he was a damn poor shot.

He had better get his rifle. It was out there by the dead man. He was sitting there unarmed and out there somewhere was someone with a big rifle, and he wasn’t afraid to use it!

Daylight was coming fast; Al took charge. “Loan me the pistol Nocho. My rifle is lying over there by a dead man. Someone else is out there with gun. I will give this back to you when I pick up my rifle. Bring the girl Pio and watch behind us.”

Al took the pistol and started walking toward the big boulder that he had been standing behind. The dead man was lying face down in the tall grass. Who could have shot this man? Certainly no one in this party! There was one thing for sure; the same gun could be aimed at the side of his head right now! If the man pulled the trigger he would never hear the shot. The man lying there certainly hadn’t heard the one that had about tore his head off.

Beside the body was an old twenty-two single shot rifle. Al picked it up and handed it to Nocho. The dead man wouldn’t need it again. Al’s own rifle was lying there. He picked it up and then, for a moment, stood staring at the back of the dead man. He reached down and took hold of the dead mans shirt and rolled him over. Al gasped! It wasn’t the scar-faced killer lying there. It appeared to be Barto! Killed twice in one week? The girl screamed and backed away. Pio looked like he was going to faint. He was as white as a ghost!

This man couldn’t be Barto! He was dead and buried! Al took a closer look. This man had the same features and the same low hairline. He looked very much like Barto, but there was some white hair mixed with the black. He was older, quite a bit older. Al remembered the death bird. His man Pio believed this sort of thing. Pio was very superstitious. Pio had killed Barto. No wonder Pio was scared. Al hoped the man didn’t panic.

Al walked over to him took him by the shoulders and shook him gently. “This man is not Barto,” he said softly. “He is much older, probably his brother.”

Pio looked down at the body on the ground. “He sure looks like Barto.”

Al nodded, “It sure does Pio but look at the hair. Barto’s was all black. There is a lot of white in this mans hair, look closely.”

Pio slowly nodded his head. “I see what you mean. You’re right, the man is not Barto.”

The girl was standing there staring down at the body. Al took her by the arm and led her over to the flat rock, which was around two feet high. He sat down and pulled the girl down beside him. She bent over and buried her head in her arms and cried softly.

“What is your name?” Al asked. There was no answer. “Did you know the man that was killed?” Still she did not answer. Al got to his feet. It was broad daylight now and there was no sign of anyone else being here.

Nocho had an extra machete. They took turns with them and soon dug a shallow grave, and placed the body in it. They pushed the dirt back and piled rocks on top. These rocks would keep the wild animals from digging it up. Al had a small Bible in his suitcase. He read a few verses from it, said a short prayer and the funeral was over. The girl quit crying and watched while they buried the man.

The sun was peeking over the treetops. There were no trees here on the sandy beach. They had better retreat to the shade of the jungle, Al decided. They picked up their belongings, including a hand woven carrying case that was in the girls boat.

They found a small clearing and proceeded to cook breakfast. Nocho took charge. He ordered Pio to find some dry wood and bring a pail of water for coffee. He put some thick ham steaks in a frying pan and then began making corn tortillas.

Al wondered what should be his next move. For three nights they had waited for the killer to come to them. A killer had come all right but it was the wrong one. Also there was someone else out there who was mighty handy with a gun. Who could it be?

The girl probably knew a lot of the answers. Somehow he must get her to talk. Pio had brought him the first aid kit. So far he hadn’t taken time to use it. ‘Now would be a good time,’ he thought.

The girl was sitting on a fallen tree a short distance from the fire. She was bent forward her head in her hands. Al poured warm water in the washbasin, picked up a clean towel and the first aid kit. The girls carrying case was laying on the boat. He picked it up and walked over to her.

He reached down and took her by the arm. His voice was low. “Breakfast will be ready soon, would you like to wash up a bit?” She did not answer.

Al shook her gently. “Here is some water and a towel, wouldn’t you like to freshen up a bit?”

There was still no answer.

Al was becoming quite annoyed to say the least. Soft words were getting nowhere. Hw would try another method. He shook here roughly, “Get up and wash your dirty face,” he shouted. “You look like hell!”

The girl came awake fast. She jumped to her feet; her eyes were full of fire. She grabbed the towel and got busy. In a couple of minutes her face and hands were clean. She opened the carrying case and drew out a clean blouse.

Then for the first time she spoke; “Would you mind turning your head or do you prefer to watch?” Al slowly turned around; a big grin came to his face. Now he was getting somewhere. “Tell me when you are finished,” he said.

The girl took her time; it was at least five minutes before she spoke again. Evidently she didn’t like to be told that she looked like hell. “You may turn around now,” she told him.

Al turned facing her. Once more she was the most beautiful girl in the world! The girl that had come across the river at Quilali! Not only had she washed her face and hands, but had put on a clean blouse, combed her hair and put on fresh make-up.

“Does this suit you better?” She asked.

Al nodded, “Yes much better, but there is one thing more. That cut on your lip needs attention, you might get an infection.” He looked down at her hand. “I think you could use a fresh bandage on that hand.”

Al took her by the arms and seated her gently on the fallen tree. He opened the first aid kit and went to work. The cut on her lip was only minor. The hand with the missing finger was healing but needed attention. He cleaned the wounds with alcohol and applied some sulfa powder, then put a clean bandage on the hand.

The girl seemed to have gained her composure. Al thought he would try once more. “What is your name?”

This time the girl didn’t hesitate, “Adilia,” she answered.

“What a pretty name, I have never heard it before now.”

“It was also my mothers name.”

The girl seemed willing to talk. But he had better not crowd her too much. She might clam up again. ‘Give her a little more time,’ Al thought. Then he would ask her more questions. Besides, it looked like breakfast was ready.

Pio and Nocho had turned the boat upside down. This would be the table; their bedrolls would be the chairs. Al sat down, the girl beside him. Pio handed them each a plate full of food and a cup of steaming black coffee.

As the meal progressed, Al was keeping an eye on the girl. He noticed she used the knife and fork much the same as himself. Pio and Nocho used only their fingers to eat with. So did everyone else around here. She was different all right!

No one spoke a word while they were eating. When the meal was over Al took the girl back to the fallen tree and they both sat down.

“Did you enjoy breakfast?” Al asked.

“Yes it was very good. I guess I was quite hungry.”

There were many questions he wanted to ask this girl. Where should he start? Maybe a good place would be to ask her about herself and her family.

He spoke softly, “Adilia there are a few things I must know. I would appreciate it very much if you would answer a few questions. What ever your answers are I will not harm you. To begin with my name is Al Mackey, I am from the United States.”

The girl nodded, “Yes I know.”

“Who are you?”

“My name is Adilia Monory.”

“Did you know the man that we buried out there? What was his name?”

“His name was Todo. He and Barto were brothers.”

“Do you know why he was going to kill me?”

The girl nodded, “Yes he was going to kill you and your man Pio. You killed his brother Barto.”

Al wondered if the man had heard the correct story about the killing of Barto. At least he would tell the girl the truth. “Listen Adilia, Barto was a killer. The other night at Talpinecci he took a young girl as his wife. That night he killed her. He chopped her to pieces with a machete! Did his brother know that?”

The girl’s eyes were big and round. “Are you telling me the truth?”

“Yes Adilia, I have no reason to lie. Also Barto tried to kill Pio. It was self-defense, there were many witnesses.”

The girl was silent for a moment. Slowly she nodded her head. “The story you tell is probably true, I believe you! But I am sure that is not the story that was told Todo. Some friend of Barto’s probably passed the story along. By the time it got to his brother all the truth was gone from out of it.”

“You must have known these guys quite well,” said Al. What was their last name?”

The girl bowed her head, “Yes. I knew them quite well. Their last name was Monory, they were my brothers!”

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