Robledo Mountain
Chapter 23

Copyright© 2018 by Kraken

Standing at the opening of the cave, they stared inside in stunned disbelief. I cleared my throat, regaining their attention. “No one else besides you three know about this. I expect it to remain that way. The cave and what’s in it are never discussed outside this room, and then only if the door is closed and barred.”

Handing Mr. Mendoza the lantern, I watched from the doorway as they wandered around exploring. All I could see was the soft glow of the light when they were in the smaller cave and I could hear Anna’s soft murmur in the distance, as she wondered about the water wheel and the pipes. The glow from the light began to get stronger as she started back. I stepped fully inside the door as they entered the larger cave. All three of them stopped in their tracks when they realized the glint reflected from the light cast by the lamp was coming from gold bars stacked in the bookshelves. Anna stepped closer to the shelves while Mr. Mendoza held the lamp higher so they could better see the stacks of gold bars.

Mrs. Mendoza looked over at me. “How much gold is stacked on these shelves?” She asked in a hush voice.

With an unseen shrug I replied. “There’s a little over two million dollars’ worth, if the price from my last sale is still good.”

They all swung their heads around looking at me like I was crazy.

Mr. Mendoza asked, “So where did the gold come from?”

My reply startled him yet again. “It came from a dry stream bed north of here. As I told you a few weeks ago, I’ve spent the last three years digging up gold, melting it down into bars like you see there, and making trips to Santa Fe to put them in the bank.”

Pointing to the bags of coins Anna quietly asked, “How much money is in those?

Walking into the circle of light thrown out by the lamp I gave her a small gentle smile. “Just over a hundred and twenty thousand. Enough money to cover two years of payroll, even if the Estancia makes no money at all.”

Stunned looks of disbelief met my statement. I waved at the shelves of gold and coins. “While it looks like a lot of gold, and it is, each single bar represents forty-five dollars at today’s prices. The payroll for all the farmers, vaqueros, Segundos, and Hacienda staff will run nearly sixty thousand a year. The best I can figure, Anna and I will be responsible for ensuring the future welfare of over twelve hundred people, once the Estancia is up and running. The gold you see on those shelves represents the future of the Estancia and the people on it. Without that gold, there is no Estancia. These two caves provide security for the gold reserves we will need in the hard times to come, as well as providing a safe refuge should it ever look like we will be overrun.”

They all thought about it for a few minutes, looking back and forth between the bars, sacks, and me. Finally, Anna turned her eyes from the shelves to me. “What happens if it takes longer than three years for the Estancia to make money?”

“With what’s in the bank and what’s on the shelves, there is enough money to cover us for twenty years, if we need it; with enough left over to help us start again someplace else, if necessary. I don’t think that will be necessary but you never know what the future holds,” I said grinning at the joke they wouldn’t understand until later.

I stood patiently waiting while the three of them processed what I’d just said. So far, so good. The next step was going to be much harder for me to talk about much less for them to accept.

Mrs. Mendoza, ever the pragmatist of the group, eventually broke the quiet. “So, this explains the secrets you said you’ve been keeping. The secret door, the caves, are certainly important and the gold explains why you want this all kept a secret. It also explains why people are trying to kill you. Is there more you want to show us, or can we go back to the table and relax with our coffee now?”

“There is much more to show you and talk about Ma’am. I promise you we’ll sit down in a minute or two to talk; but first, please follow me.” Taking the lantern from Mr. Mendoza I led them around behind the line of bookshelves and waved my arm. “Look around all you want, I’ll try to answer any questions you have, and then we’ll have some coffee.”

I handed Mr. Mendoza the lantern again and he walked around the RV followed by the two ladies. I heard their gasp when they spotted the small mountain of gold nuggets piled on the cave floor off to the side. When they’d finished looking around they rejoined me at the back of the trailer.

Anna waved her arm towards the RV and trailer asking, “What is this thing?”

“It’s actually two things Anna. The front part is called a Recreational Vehicle or ‘RV for short. Think of it as a small house on wheels. It can travel long distances, almost anywhere, by means of an internal combustion engine. The second part is a trailer used for hauling material or storage much like the wagons we use.”

I turned and opened the rear doors on the trailer. Reaching inside I flicked the light switch. They gasped at the sudden light and looked inside to see what was on fire. Seeing the panic on their faces I hastily explained.

“There’s nothing to be concerned about, it’s just an overhead light.” I stopped at that point realizing that none of what I said made any sense to them. I thought for a minute and tried again, “It’s an artificial light created by applying the right type of power to an L.E.D. bulb. It’s not dangerous, and it’s not magic. Nothing else I can tell you about it will help you understand it any better without a lot of discussion and explanation. Right now we have much more important things to see and talk about.”

They continued looking at the light inside the trailer for a moment before tearing their eyes away and glancing at the work table, lathe, storage racks of rolled steel and bins of wood before looking back at me. “We can talk about all the things inside the trailer later, but most of what I tell you will require much more time than we have right now. Suffice it to say that what you see inside the trailer are tools and materials I use to build and repair guns, or pieces of guns.”

They all nodded and pulled their heads out of the trailer. I beckoned them to follow me, and walked to the front of the RV. I opened the door, and watched them file into the RV. I turned on the interior lights and started up the air conditioner to get rid of the stuffy stale air. I moved up to the driver’s area, and waved them up to stand behind me as I sat down in the driver’s seat. I explained what I could about driving, steering, the gas pedal, the brake, and the gear shift. When I was done with that, I reminded them that nothing could happen until the engine was on, and then I started the engine. After a few moments, I turned off the engine, and looked over at them. They were all standing with shocked looks on their faces.

I had them all sit down at the table, as I pulled the coffee container out of the freezer and filled up the basket with grounds before putting the container back in the freezer. I poured the water in the reservoir, placed the pot in position, and closed the lid, telling them coffee would be ready in a few minutes. The look of disbelief remained on their faces although at this point I couldn’t be sure if it was the technology, or the fact that I was clearly expecting them to drink coffee that I’d made.

While we waited for the coffee, I named each of the appliances. I didn’t even try to explain the microwave. I just told them it was a specialized type of oven, as I tossed in a bag of popcorn and turned it on. As it was now ready, I went over to the coffee maker and poured four cups of coffee, using four of my old unit coffee cups. I put one in front of each person at the table. I took a sip before letting out a pleased sigh, with a grin on my face.

“Be careful, the coffee is hot,” I said as I turned to the microwave when it gave its usual annoying ‘ding.’

They were shifting their gaze back and forth between the coffee in front of them, the coffeemaker, the microwave, and the bowl of popcorn I put in front of them as I sat down. I reached out taking a handful of popcorn and threw a couple of pieces into my mouth.

After I swallowed I gave another pleased sigh. “I’ve been looking forward to a really good cup of coffee and some popcorn since this morning.”

Anna picked up a piece and looked at it curiously, before putting it into her mouth and chewing. She grinned as she swallowed, it was popcorn after all, and told her grandparents to try it as she took a sip of coffee. The grin on her face turned to astonishment as the taste of the coffee hit her brain. She looked at me, and then back at the cup, before looking over at her grandparents telling them the coffee was fantastic.

They both took a sip of coffee and they too were amazed at how good it tasted. I laughed at their expression. “I can’t make stove top coffee the way you all do because I never learned everything someone needs to know to make it that way.” I pointed at the coffee maker on the counter. “That’s how I learned to make coffee.”

We sat silently for several minutes sipping coffee and eating popcorn while they processed everything they had heard and seen. Eventually though my nerves got the better of me.

“As you have all probably guessed none of this was made anywhere around here. That’s not quite accurate. It’s really of question of when it was made rather than where.” From their looks it was clear I was stumbling with my explanation. “Let me try this again. I’ll start off saying almost everything you think you know about me, except my name, is probably wrong. The first time I met Great Grandfather Garcia, he said that I was an old soul in a young body. He was more right than anyone suspected. I am not the nineteen-year-old you believe me to be. The best I can figure, I am seventy.”

I stopped there as confusion left their faces to be replaced by something more closely resembling the look on a stunned mullet.

After just a few moments, Anna’s face lost the stunned look to be replaced with a look of calm contentment. A few moments later both Mendozas started asking questions at the same time.

Holding up my hands I said, “It’ll be easier if you hear me out before starting on your questions.” They both nodded and I continued. “As hard as it is to believe, what I said is true. I was born in El Paso, in the year 1952. Yes, you heard me right. I was born in 1952, almost 100 years from now.”

I went on to give them the story of my 20th and 21st century life. My parents teaching school at the reservation, being adopted by the Garcias, joining the military, finding and marrying Laura, my education, my kids, my work in the service, my retirement, my business, Laura’s death, and finally waking up here after driving into a low fog. I watched their faces as I talked. Their expressions changing from disbelief to incredulity and back to disbelief again with a slight touch of bemusement by the time I was done.

“I don’t expect you to take my word for a story like the one you just heard. I showed you this,” I said waving my arms to take in everything in the RV, “to help prove it to you. There’s more to show you, of course.”

I opened the wallet that had been sitting in the middle of the table. I opened it up and dumped out the coins into my cupped palm. I handed the coins, a penny, nickel, dime, and quarter, to Anna. I pulled out a one dollar, a five dollar, a ten dollar, and a twenty dollar bill, handing them to Mr. Mendoza.

I let them examine them closely before saying, “Those are the most common coins and dollar bills from the early 21st century. The dates they were minted, or made, are on them.” I waited a few moments longer before opening the billfold again. “One of the common themes in the late 20th century and early 21st century is the fact that government issued identification is required to do almost anything. Here is my retired military identification card, issued by the Federal Government. This is my license to carry a weapon, and here is my license to operate a motor vehicle; both of which are issued by the State of New Mexico. Again, they are all dated, and these have my picture on them,” I said handing them all to Mrs. Mendoza.

While they were examining the ID’s I looked over at Anna and found her looking at me. Her face still held of calm contentment with the added bonus of a small smile on her lips, and the light dancing in her eyes.

“So, all those questions you answered about your past over the last three years were all lies?” Mrs. Mendoza asked curiously.

“Um, Mrs. Mendoza, since I first met Mr. Mendoza I have tried my best not to lie. I may not have given all the truth in answer to a question, and I know I phrased some of my responses in such a way that it led you to believe something entirely different than what I said, but I don’t believe I have ever lied to you.”

“I know I took you all completely by surprise. Imagine for a moment how surprised I was, when I woke up fifty years younger than I was the day before, or how I felt the first time I met Mr. Mendoza and found out it was 1850 instead of 2016. Think what I must have felt when I discovered that everything I knew, all the people important to me, and all the places I was familiar with ... were gone! I was alone, with just my memories and thoughts. This RV, with all its technological advancements, and everything in the trailer can’t change the facts,” I explained wearily.

“Why tell us this? Why tell us now?” Mr. Mendoza asked softly.

“I had to tell you. First and most important, I had to tell Anna, because I can’t see myself married to her and not telling her. Trust is the foundation of all marriages. Without it, there is no marriage, it’s simply two people, friends perhaps, living in the same place, and sharing the same bed. I love Anna too much to lie to her, and I would’ve had to lie to keep this a secret from her. I had to tell you and Mrs. Mendoza, because Anna trusts you two above all others. I must trust someone in addition to Anna. Someone I can trust with the knowledge of this cave and its contents as well as what happens in the future should something happen to Anna and me. Who better to trust than someone who has proven day in and day out that they can be trusted. Someone who will be my family.”

Both Mr. and Mrs. Mendoza were visibly rocked by my explanation, but I didn’t stop there.

“As for why tell you now, again it’s quite simple. This is the only time before the wedding that all three of you will be here. I couldn’t think of a single way to tell you, and have you believe me, without showing you the RV and the trailer. I refused to take the chance that you wouldn’t believe me or that Anna would call the wedding off without having you see the proof.”

My last statement about Anna calling off the wedding startled the Mendozas.

Anna’s smile broadened into one of her super megawatt smiles I love so much. “Mi Pablo, nothing you’ve said tonight has changed our wedding plans. It will happen as planned.”

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