Chapter Twenty-One

This entry is part 21 of 36 in the series Bend

Chapter Twenty-One

Al was stunned, this beautiful girl, a sister to Barto and Todo? This seemed impossible. He got up and began to pace back and forth in front of the girl. Barto was a killer, mean and vicious. Surely this sweet young girl sitting here on the log could be no kin to him.

Suddenly he remembered; just a few nights ago this sweet young thing had tried to kill him! She had come charging into that room with a long sharp knife in her hand. Then he remembered something the Judge had told him. The scar-faced killer had been accused of murdering a brother of Barto’s. That was the reason that he had taken the job.

Evidently these people believed in the old saying; “an eye for an eye.” Probably in the eyes of Todo it was his duty to avenge his brother. Then he remembered the death bird, that horrible scream. Pio had said someone that has heard the bird scream will die before morning. Al wondered if the screaming of the bird enticed people to kill. Their predictions always seemed to come true. They made them come true!

Next Al remembered that first night in Talpinecci. All the unwed mothers had come to town seeking husbands. Pio had told him; here they do not wait until they are married to have children. Also they do not expect to get a husband that is not already married. Mighty strange people, he decided.

Al stopped pacing and looked down at the girl. There was another question that had just entered his mind. “You say that Barto and Todo were your brothers?”

The girl nodded.

“Blood brothers? Did you have the same father and mother?”

The girl shook her head, “No. Mr. Monory is my stepfather. His first wife died many years ago. He and my mother were married only a few years ago.”

Al couldn’t help but breath a sigh of relief. A lot of things began to make a little bit of sense. “Do you have any more brothers or sisters?” he asked.

The girl shook her head. “There were no girls in the family. Now there are no boys, they are all dead., all but Father Monory”

Al had one more question. “The other night at Talpinecci, why did you try to kill me?”

The girl looked down at her right hand and the missing finger. It would always remind her of that night. She looked up at Al. “I am very sorry, I did a terrible thing. Mr. Monory believed all those lies. He sent Todo and me.” Suddenly she burst into tears.

Al set down beside her. “ I am sorry too Adilia. I wouldn’t have hurt you for all the world.” He helped the girl to her feet.

“Thank for answering all my questions. You are free to go now. Whenever you are ready my men will take your boat to the river.”

The girl set back down on the tree. Her eyes were bright with tears. “There is no need to take my boat to the river, I will stay here.”

“But you can’t stay here, Adilia!”

“I might as well stay. There is nowhere else for me to go.”

“Get in you boat and go home. Your step-father Mr. Monory will be worried about you.”

“If I go home alone he will kill me.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, he will welcome you home.”

The girl shook her head. “You don’t know him Mr. Mackey. If I were to go home and tell him his only remaining son has been killed… Oh no Mr. Mackey, I am not going there!”

“But you can’t stay here, you will starve to death…El Tigre will get you!”

“Then let him get me, at least it will be a quick way out!”

Al did not know which way to turn. He couldn’t just go off and leave the girl here. She would be dead by morning. He stepped close to her and put his arm around her shoulders. He spoke softly. “I am not going to leave you here. You must have friends around here somewhere. We will take you there. Maybe a village close somewhere around here where you can stay?”

The girl shook her head. “I will stay here.”

“But you can’t stay here! I will do anything you say except I will not leave you here!”

“Anything?”

“Yes anything!”

“Promise?”

“With all my heart!”

There was a trace of a smile on her face as she got to her feet. She linked her arm in Al’s and smiled up at him. “Then it is all settled, I am going with you.”

“Oh Lord! I have really done it now!” Al muttered. “Where do I go from here?” he turned to the girl. “The Judge at Quilali has ordered me to bring back a wanted killer. He is probably waiting over on that trail. He knows we are coming and he will kill a gain. And from what I hear he doesn’t care who it is. It is a dangerous trip.”

“Yes I know. I also know that the man you are looking for is not there. Todo and I have been over there the last two days waiting for him to pass. Evidently he has already gone down the river. So for a while we should be in no great danger.”

Well at least they were on the same side. They had a common enemy. Al reached down and pinched himself. Was he dreaming? Standing here with the most beautiful girl in the world wanting to go down the river with him? What the hell was he waiting for? Had he lost his marbles?

On the other hand he had better be a little bit cautious. This was a crazy world down here. These people had many strange customs. What would she expect of him if he did take her along? What would people think? A beautiful young woman traveling with three men! Of course he could claim her for a sister. Or Nocho could pass her off as a daughter.

The girl seemed to read his mind. The big brown eyes looked up at him. “Don’t worry, everything will be all right. I shall go as your wife!”

Al was stunned. Was he hearing correctly? The girl leaned her head on his shoulder; her voice was low. “Aren’t you going to kiss me?”

Al was fast turning native. He drew her close. Why not?

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