Copyright© 2018 by Kraken
I showed up in the courtyard the next morning, feeling almost like I was hung over. I hadn’t gotten much sleep, and what little I did get was fitful at best. Anna took one look at me in the light of early dawn, and almost canceled the morning Tai Chi and practice session before we even started.
I was finally able to convince her I was okay, and we started our by now familiar morning routine. To say that Anna was still concerned would be an understatement. She watched me like a hawk throughout both Tai Chi and the katas. I had to smile to myself at her concern, despite how sluggish I was feeling.
While Tom and I were cleaning up, I sent the stable boys out with notes for Juan, Jorge, and Giuseppe, asking them to join us for breakfast in the restaurant. Before leaving, I found Mr. Mendoza inside the stables, and asked him to join us for breakfast, too.
Inside the restaurant, we were joined by Anna, Yolanda, and Mrs. Mendoza. Eyebrows were raised when I said that I’d asked Juan, Jorge, and Giuseppe to join us, and suggested we use the family dining room for breakfast. My request was met with curious looks all the way around, but was quickly acceded to, when I explained that we’d be discussing a topic I didn’t want overheard.
Our three guests arrived almost simultaneously, and after a great breakfast I started the discussion.
“Thank you all for meeting me this morning on such short notice. The reason I asked you all here, is to talk about yesterday afternoon’s attack here in the restaurant, and what it means to each of you and your families. To be blunt, it means that as a result of my actions, each and every one of you, as well as each of the members of your family, are now in extreme danger.”
The outcry of horror and anger at me that I’d expected, didn’t happen. Instead, I was met by blank yet concerned looks from everyone at the table. I gave a small sigh as I realized that their faith in me was going to make this harder than I’d thought.
“You all know bits and pieces of what I’m about to tell you. Some of you have even been a participant in some of the events, wittingly or unwittingly; but it’s past time that you all know what I’m going to say.”
Without going into detail about where or how much, I told them about finding gold up north before my first visit to Las Cruces, and how I’d spent the last three and a half years mining that gold, and making periodic trips to Santa Fe to put it in the bank. I described the precautions I’d taken during my trips to Santa Fe to make those deposits and the success I’d had in minimizing the risk. Then I told them about the mistake I’d made and my last trip to Santa Fe.
When I was done describing the ambush outside Santa Fe, and the comments from the leader, I saw the initial dawning of understanding begin to appear on the faces of the Mendozas, Anna, and Yolanda. Even then, like the rest, they still didn’t understand the true nature or scope of the danger they were in.
I took them through each subsequent attack, emphasizing the amount of time between each attack, the tactics used by the attackers, and the information I’d gained during each attack. Finally, I took them all through yesterday’s attack in the restaurant. By this point the blank looks I’d been getting had been replaced by deep concern.
“After the first attack, I thought it was simply a matter of the gold and where it was. That might have been true then, but that’s clearly no longer the case. Each group of attackers may have hoped they could get it out of me before they killed me, but the orders from “the boss” make it clear to me that something else besides the gold is going on. I have no clue what that might be, yet; but it seems clear that the boss’s main objective now, is my death.”
I gave everyone at the table, including Anna, a hard stare. “Yesterday’s attack also makes it clear that whoever is behind this has no problem with getting to me by using those closest to me. That includes the families of those closest to me. Each and every one of you needs to think about your friendship or relationship, both personal and business with me, and determine how you want to proceed.” I glanced at Mr. Mendoza, Juan, and Jorge. “This includes giving serious thought about the impact this will have on all those you’ve invited to live and work on the Estancia.”
A few minutes of discussion resulted in my standing up and forcefully saying, “There are only two ways this can end, folks! You seem to be missing that fact. If the boss is successful then, if we’re lucky, I’m the only one who’s dead. If I’m successful, the boss is dead. Either way, some of you and or your families or friends will most likely be dead as well. While I’m thinking about it, there is something else you need to understand. This isn’t a short-term proposition. It’s likely going to take years to resolve this, if I’m lucky and survive that long. Whoever is behind this is gaining more and more information with each attempt, while I and those supporting me have gained nothing so far, besides the fact that all this is being orchestrated by someone in Santa Fe, supported by one or more agents in Mesilla.”
I stood there glaring at the table trying to force them to understand the seriousness of the situation. Anna, calmly stood up, walked over to me, wrapped her arms around me in a hug, while giving me a swift deep kiss.
“As they found out today, they will have to deal with at least two of us my love,” she stated matter-of-factly, before beaming me one of her blistering smiles and returning to her chair.
Discussion around the table resumed as I slowly sank back down into my seat. I’d fully expected Anna and, for that matter, the Mendozas, to stick by me; but I hadn’t expected the declaration to be so immediate and public.
In less than five minutes everyone at the table had reached the same conclusion, and voiced their declarations led by Mr. Mendoza.
“For most of us, living here has always held significant risk and little reward, besides the value of living as our own masters. Most here are satisfied to eke out enough to live day to day, without thought for the future. That includes those I’ve invited to join you on the Estancia. Regardless of the threat you’ve outlined today, I and mine will continue to support our personal and business relationships. Despite the potential consequences, knowing you has brought its own highly valued rewards. While I don’t know all of your plans what I do know is that the potential future rewards to me, my family, Las Cruces, and the valley, are untold.”
Two decisions were made at that point. The first was that from now on, everyone would be armed at all times. This meant they would all carry a shotgun like Giuseppe and Mr. Mendoza had, wherever they went. Second, all visitors to Las Cruces would be carefully watched. For the time being this wasn’t such a major effort, as there were few visitors in Las Cruces for any length of time.
I was almost overwhelmed with their belief in me, but I was still concerned that they hadn’t understood the danger they were placing themselves in.
Laura’s soft voice whispered in my ear, “Let it go, Paul. You did your best, and they’ve each made their choices. Like most worthwhile things, there are sure to be tears shed before this is all over; but it will all work out for the best, in the end.”
The ladies all started clearing the table, as Laura’s whisper faded away and the men all got up to return to their work. With a small shrug to myself, I let my concerns go. I rose from my chair at Juan and Jorge’s request to walk them out.
Passing by Anna she said, “Don’t go far, mi Pablo. Lupe should be here in a few minutes for our meeting.”
My droll response of, “Yes, dear,” got me a large Anna smile, a chuckle from Tom, and a giggle from Yolanda.
Out on the street, Juan turned to me and said cheerily, “I found those rose bushes you asked for, and ordered them along with the terrace planters. I should get them in plenty of time to have them planted at the Hacienda before the wedding.”
I thanked him profusely for making my hoped for surprise a reality. Before the two of them left, I made a point of thanking them once again for coming on such short notice.
With a shrug, Jorge said, “Your note came at just the right time. Ten minutes later, and I’d have been on my way to Mesilla for lunch with the commander at the new fort. Apparently, he wants to talk about designing some replacements for all the temporary buildings he currently has.”
“That’s great news, Jorge. He sure seemed impressed with your work when I showed him the plans for the Estancia during his visit a while back,” I said with a smile.
My smile turned into a grin and I turned to Juan. “He was also impressed with all the adobe bricks stacked in the village. I can’t say for sure, but if I was a betting man I’d expect some orders for adobe brick, lime, and other things from the fort in late spring, if I were you.”
Both men returned my grin and walked off down the street, talking to each other.
Back inside the restaurant, I joined Anna, Yolanda, and Tom at our normal table. I gave Anna a questioning look with a small nod towards Yolanda, who gave Anna a questioning look of her own.
Anna gave us both a grin before addressing Yolanda. “Are you interested in living with us at the Hacienda, after Paul and I are married?”
Yolanda’s immediate response was, “Absolutely!”
“In that case, I’d like you to be at the meeting Paul and I are having with Lupe in a few minutes.”
Her intrigued look made Anna realize she didn’t know about the village store, so she explained what Lupe had been doing. A few moments later she explained further.
“Yolanda, I’ll be handling most things dealing with the village, including the store. I need a backup for those times I’m not at the Hacienda, like during our trip after the wedding. Paul and I would like you be my back up.”
I’d never seen Yolanda beam such a large smile before.
Lupe walked in a short time later and joined us at the table, taking the chair Tom had vacated a few minutes earlier. We spent a few minutes of talking about the families and what they had been doing, before Anna kicked off the discussion by letting Lupe know what Yolanda’s role would be in the future, and then asked her how things with the store were progressing. Lupe handed Anna an itemized inventory list with amounts and costs as well as a list of shelves, tables, and other material she’d need for the store.
A half hour later, Lupe was hurrying off with a smile as Anna had approved the list. Lupe was to place the order with Mrs. Amador, as well as with the woodwright, and Anna would stop by both later to pay for everything.
The three of us talked for a few more minutes finishing our coffee. When I got up to leave I gave Anna all but the last ten dollars I had with me. I asked if that, combined with what she had left from what I had previously given her, was enough to pay Mrs. Amador for the initial order. She nodded with a smile, and told me it was more than enough.
Later that afternoon, the much anticipated drilling rigs rolled into Mr. Mendoza’s stable. Tom and I watched from the restaurant, as Giuseppe came bustling up and joined the men climbing down from the wagons. After a few moments discussion Giuseppe began pointing, and the well wagon crews began moving the wagons back behind the stable and unharnessing the stock. Satisfied that everything was under control, Tom and I returned to our table to wait for Giuseppe to get everyone settled in for the evening.
Giuseppe and John Gillespie joined us half an hour later. Over coffee Giuseppe showed John the painting of the Estancia to give him a general overview and then explained the drilling plan we’d come up with. Once John understood the plan, Giuseppe went through the Hacienda and Village surveys letting John know that the Ranch survey would be ready before the drilling was done in the village. John and Giuseppe left shortly thereafter, leaving Tom and I alone to watch Anna and Yolanda as they prepared the restaurant for the dinner crowd.
“The next three weeks are sure going to be lonely without those two around,” Tom said forlornly.
“It will indeed be lonely, but it was their choice and we can’t force them. Besides, they’re right. You and I are going to be so busy working on the indoor plumbing for the Hacienda, and all the septic tanks, that we wouldn’t have time for them. After that, it’s another trip to El Paso to pick up the next two wagons, and some other things; and they weren’t going on that trip with us, either. Once that’s all done, though, we’ll be back here and in their arms for two weeks,” I said with a grin at the thought.
The next morning Giuseppe, his assistant, plus Tom and I, led the six wagons hauling the drilling rigs, pipes, and supplies out of Las Cruces.
The wagons hauling the drilling rigs moved even slower than I thought they would, and we arrived at the Hacienda camp just after four. While the drilling crew settled in at the camp, Tom, Giuseppe, John, and I went up the slope to find Heinrich. We all stopped as we topped the slope and stared. From this view, it looked like everything but the roof was done. I knew that was an illusion, but it actually looked like a house. A very big house, but a house none the less.
We walked into the lower courtyard, and it was clear it was just about ready for the patio stones to be laid. We peeked inside the house and saw that the flooring hadn’t been laid yet, which was a good thing as far as running the pipes was concerned. All the lower level walls were done, while on the upper floor only the support walls and floor beams were finished. We went up the south exterior staircase and into the upper courtyard. The upper courtyard wasn’t quite as complete as the lower courtyard, and this is where we found Heinrich, talking to one of his masons.
Heinrich smiled at us, finished his conversation, and turned to welcome us home. After introductions were made, Heinrich brought us to date on the Hacienda. He was still ahead of schedule, and had made arrangements with Juan to start bringing in the roof timbers, roof tiles, flooring, floor tiles, courtyard patio stones, and walls boards. He’d also set up a schedule with Juan, to bring in the various craftsmen to do the finish work that was going to be needed. The stone supply was holding up, but he was going to start sending men out to the Ranch area next week, as the stone work on the Hacienda started wrapping up, and they needed a good supply ready at the Ranch.
With the update done, we left Heinrich and returned to the lower plateau where we showed John the five additional sites he’d agreed to drill for the waste pipes, near the edge of the plateau. Once he was satisfied that he could drill safely we returned to the camp to settle in our ourselves.
I waited a respectable amount of time after dinner to allow for socializing, before telling everyone goodnight. As I walked up to the house, I thought how much more pleasant it was when Anna was with me.
The next morning, I was up and waiting on the upper plateau a little early, but it gave me time to think about what I had to do over the next few nights, while I waited for the others to arrive for our morning Tai Chi. I needed to remove the RVs bathroom faucet and taps. When that was done, I needed to come up with some way to connect both to the steel water and drain pipes. The last task was to remove the flash water heater, and come up with connectors for it as well. It was all going to take some time and ingenuity, with a load of luck thrown in, but I was sure I would be able to come up with something that would work.
I was beginning to think that I would be doing the morning exercises alone, when I heard a bunch of feet and subdued voices coming up the stairs. Miguel had told me last night that a few more of the cousins had decided to join the morning exercises and martial arts training, after closely watching the original five practice and spar in the afternoons. Still, I was a little surprised when Tom and the original five cousins showed up leading fourteen more cousins. I felt heartened at the sight of them, and hoped they were all staying on the Estancia for the long term; especially since over half of them were teenagers.
After breakfast, Tom went off to check the quarry. Giuseppe and his assistant went with the crew assigned to drill the waste pipe holes, and John took the rest of his crew out to the village area with one of the wagon team members to show him the way.