Railroad (Robledo Mountain #4)
Chapter 2

Copyright© 2020 by Kraken

I finally tracked Anna down in our room. She was sitting in one of the rockers, feeding JJ from a bottle as she gently rocked back and forth. Even though she was holding a sleeping JJ, her body was relaxed, her head was leaned against the back of the rocker, eyes closed, with a small contented grin on her lovely face. A feeling of peace permeated the room.

I started to turn around and leave, the scene was just too tranquil to disturb, but Anna chose that moment to open her eyes. Seeing me, the small grin turned into a full-fledged smile.

“Hello, my love,” she said dreamily. “I think I fell asleep for a few minutes. Is lunch ready?”

“No, but it will be ready soon,” I replied softly, not wanting to wake JJ. “If you fell asleep it wasn’t for more than a minute or two. I just wanted to talk for a few minutes.”

“Let me put JJ in his room and then we can talk,” she said as she got up from the rocker.

Once she was back from laying JJ down, she sat back down in the rocker and looked at me expectantly.

“I’m a little confused my love,” I said, not knowing where else to start. Anna raised a questioning eyebrow waiting for me to explain. “Did you have a plan when we first started talking with the Greenburgs this morning?” Before she could answer I hurriedly rushed on, “What is it you want to tell them after lunch, and what in the world do you want to show them?”

Anna gave a small giggle. “Yes,” she smiled in reply. “I had a plan. The same plan you had. To listen to what he had to say and then ask questions to see what we could learn.” Her smile turned serious as she gathered her thoughts. “He does have an interesting story, doesn’t he? His reaction to his experiences in that gang and later during the war are very similar to your reaction to the war, don’t you think? It’s quite fascinating to me that if you hadn’t already been married to Laura when you got back that you could have turned out much the same way he did.”

I had to think about that for a few minutes before I could see what Anna was saying. She waited patiently as I thought about it.

“I didn’t see the parallels until you just mentioned it,” I said musingly, “but I guess I would have ended up a loner like he did if it hadn’t been for Laura and the kids. Hell, I almost ended up that way anyway.”

“Yes, you did,” she said, getting up out of the rocker and coming over to cuddle with me on the couch. “But what really struck me was his answer to Yolanda’s question about missing the last war and not being attacked while he was traveling on his tinker’s circuit.”

“I thought his answer was quite good,” I said thoughtfully. “The combination of planning, timing, and good luck could explain it. After all, even as much time as I spent traveling, I really wasn’t attacked that often. As a matter of fact, a good majority of the attacks I experienced happened because I stuck my nose in other people’s misfortune.”

“Oh, I admit that his explanation was quite plausible,” she agreed. “But ten years? No, there was more to it than he was admitting. He told us of his dreams. They were more like the visions you have with Laura but in a bad way. That got me to thinking that he never mentioned anything about whispering voices. If he had the dreams, then shouldn’t he have been hearing whispering voices as well?”

“You’re one smart lady,” I said with my chin resting on top of her head.

“And didn’t Laura tell you she thought he had met other time walkers? I’m not sure how she came to that conclusion but her other thoughts about Mr. Greenburg proved to be right. We know he wasn’t sent back by Laura or, for lack of a better way of saying it, good spirits, so, he must have been sent back by evil spirits. If he fought to stay good, ignoring the dreams and the demands of the whispering voice, then it stands to reason that perhaps other time walkers might have been used to try to influence him to do bad things.”

I couldn’t help but think of the old movie and almost blurted out, ‘the dark side of the force’, but just managed to stop myself. It would have taken too much time to explain the reference. Instead, I kept quiet.

“Did Laura say anything while we were all down there?” Anna asked.

“No. Not a peep from her. She said she would listen in, but I never know when she’s listening unless she says something. I got the impression though that she was going to let us handle it unless there was some kind of danger or we were missing something important. If that’s the case, then we must have done well.”

Anna turned her head towards me and, after pulling my head down for a quick kiss, continued. “As for this afternoon, you need to tell them about Laura whispering to you. As a matter of fact, you need to tell them about your visions as well. While you mentioned the visions, or dreams, during your story, you didn’t go into any detail and you didn’t mention Laura’s whispers at all.”

I started to object as I felt both were too personal to be telling everyone in the room about. At my first words, Anna turned to look me straight in the eye.

“Pablo, there are two reasons you need to do this, in as much detail as possible. First, you need to strengthen your time walker connection with Mr. Greenburg. He needs to know that your experience is the same as his, with one major exception. Hearing voices when no one is there and having strong vision like dreams is that connection. Then, to strengthen that connection, you need to go into detail about how Laura helped you understand that you weren’t a monster because of what happened during the war.

“Mr. Greenburg must be made to see that you and he are alike in a fundamental way. You both were trying, no, trying isn’t the right word. Fighting is the word. Fighting against your self-doubt, to regain your self-worth, your very humanity, you felt you lost as a result of your war experiences.

“Once that essential connection is formed in his mind then, and only then, will he be able to see the key difference between your time walking experiences.”

I was struggling to take in everything Anna had said, to process it, to make sense of it all. It took a few moments before I realized she had stopped talking, waiting for me to mentally catch up with her.

“All right, I can see where that might help, but what is this essential difference you’re going on about? I don’t see it,” I complained.

With a sigh, Anna placed a hand gently along my cheek and said, “Mi Pablo, please don’t take this the wrong way but, sometimes, I wonder how you ever survived alone in the desert.” Seeing my obvious confusion, she took pity on a mere man.

“Pablo, the essential difference is that whatever or whoever is behind his time walking is evil. Everything related to his time walking has been evil. Everything directly related to your time walking has been good. You were sent back by good spirits to do good things. To counter the evil that has, and will happen, because of people like the other time walkers Mr. Greenburg told us about.

“Once he sees that essential difference, I think he will quit fighting us and, if not join us wholeheartedly, at least help us from time to time.”

“Wow! It makes sense the way you put it, but how you put it all together in such a short time is nothing short of unbelievable,” I said in awe.

“You would have seen it eventually,” Anna scoffed. “Putting things together quickly is just one of my talents. You have talents that I don’t have. The two of us together make a pretty formidable team. Now, let’s go down to lunch.”

“Yes, Dear,” I replied, imitating Tom’s usual response to Yolanda, as we were both getting off the couch.

“And while we’re eating lunch, you need to be thinking about how to play up the ‘good’ of your time walking, without actually saying your time walking is for good, supported by Laura, while his time walking is for evil. It’s important that he come to that conclusion himself.”

We were at the bottom of the stairs by then, so I just nodded my head as we continued down the hall, into the dining room, where lunch was just being brought out from the kitchen.

I was quiet during lunch as I thought about how to do what Anna had asked. How do you tell someone about the fight between good and evil when, no matter their intentions, they were originally led to the fight by evil? The vast majority of people I’ve ever met, whether in the here and now or the future, are good honest men and women. Not one of them would have taken kindly to the thought that they were being led into a bad situation, much less directly influenced, by evil.

I understood what Anna had asked me to do, I just couldn’t come up with a way of showing Mr. Greenburg the spirit or spirits controlling his dreams and voices were evil while mine were good without coming out and directly saying just that.

By the time lunch was over, I’d come to the conclusion that all I could do was tell him, explicitly, my experiences. Even if he still didn’t get the difference then all I could was contrast his experiences with mine.

After a quick break, we reconvened in the den. Celia delayed things a minute or two as she brought in a large tray of coffee, iced tea, and, proving yet again, the power of prayer, a heaping plate of biscochitos. When everyone had been supplied with their drink of choice I began.

“Talking about dreams, or visions as I prefer to call them, and whispering voices unheard by others is never an easy thing to do. I applaud Mr. Greenburg for the bravery he showed in talking about both. His trust in us deserves to be met with an equal amount of trust by me.

“It should be clear by now to all of you that know me that Mr. Greenburg and I are alike in many ways. We both came home from the war convinced that we were monsters. You’ve heard Mr. Greenburg’s story and you’ve all experienced my struggles. Struggles that would have been much worse if it hadn’t been for one thing. One thing that Mr. Greenburg didn’t have when he came home from the war. The love of a good woman. A good woman who held our family close providing loving support despite my struggles.”

Mr. Greenburg interrupted me asking, “Why do you call them visions instead of dreams?”

“I rarely remember my dreams and when I do, I can’t seem to remember the entire dream,” I started my reply. “But my ‘visions’, I remember clearly. Every detail, every nuance, every word. Yes, they always come at night when I’m asleep, but they aren’t ordinary, run-of-the-mill dreams. I don’t know how to explain it any better than that.”

“Okay. I think I understand,” he said musingly before continuing. “And, you’re right, they aren’t common dreams. I too remember everything about them, while I don’t remember many of my dreams, and when I do, I don’t remember much.”

With his question asked and answered, I spent the next hour telling my story of war and its aftermath. The easy part was telling of JT’s death, my feelings, and my pursuit of justice. Telling them about my feelings on my return and the impact that had on my family, my promises to Laura on her deathbed, and the nightmare of her death in the hospital, were all harder, but the hardest part was recounting every vision and whisper since I’d been whisked away from the twenty-first century. I intentionally emphasized the ‘good’ about those visions. How none of them showed me the horror and violence of war, but reminded me of my promises, how to live up to them, how to forgive myself, and just as importantly, how to love again.

Next, I covered the whispered voice. I talked about how annoying it was at first, almost but not quite, understanding what was being said. How I’d learned to concentrate and open myself up to hearing Laura when she whispered her warnings. How all the early whispers were either warnings of danger to me, those with me, or those I loved. When I got to the last couple of years, I explained that the whispers were still usually about danger but had become interspersed with encouragement.

I ended by telling them the identity of the spirit behind both the dreams and the voices.

“Mr. Greenburg, you said you had no idea who, or what was behind the dreams you have or the voice you hear. In my case, I can unequivocally state, with certainty, that it’s my first wife Laura. Anna’s great grandfather, a shaman, said it was Girl-Without-Parents who was doing it. He may be right given his last letter to us, but whether it’s the Apache spirit using my wife’s voice or my wife acting on behalf of the Apache spirit, it will always be my wife behind it as far as I’m concerned.”

Mr. Greenburg, with a confused look, asked, “Who is Girl-Without-Parents? I’ve never heard of her.”

Anna jumped in to answer the question. “Sir, as with most religions, The Apache have a supreme being, under which are numerous lesser spirits. Girl-Without-Parents is one of the Apache spirits under Ussen, the creator. Girl-Without-Parents is in charge of the rest of the lesser spirits. It helps most Christians, and probably Jews as well, to think of the lesser spirits as the various archangels or angels.”

Mr. Greenburg nodded in understanding and Anna continued, “If there are no more questions then we have two things to show the Greenburgs. Actually, Paul will show them to you, but it will take you a day or two of study to understand what they will tell you.”

It dawned on me that Anna and I had never gotten around to talking about whatever it was she wanted me to show the Greenburgs. I was both surprised and apprehensive at her next words despite her gentle squeeze of my hand, which I took to mean that I needed to trust her.

“Paul, if you will get the timeline, and all the plans you’ve developed based on them, I think it’s time for them to understand the history of New Mexico and the United States as you remember it as well as the entirety of what it is we’re trying to do.”

Although I hadn’t planned on revealing either item to the Greenburgs, it made sense that showing both items to them would make it easier for them to trust us. What didn’t make sense to me was showing them the entrance to the cave and, more importantly, how to open it.

Hesitating, I looked intensely at Anna, questioning her with just my look. She gave me a small smile, a smaller nod of her head, along with the same gentle squeeze of the hand. My mind made up, I turned to the Greenburgs.

“You’ve already promised not to repeat or reveal anything we talked about today. What you’re about to see goes far beyond that promise. So, once again, I need both of you to promise never to reveal or talk about what you’re going to see, with anyone not currently in this room, and never outside of this room, or with the door unbarred.”

After looking at each other for a moment, they both looked back at me and gave the promise I’d asked for.

As we got up from the couch, Anna gave me another small hand squeeze. Anna moved to light the lantern sitting on the desk, while I retrieved the long rod.

Inserting it into the hole, I turned to the Greenburgs, “If you two will follow me, I’ll show you the rest of the secrets.”

With a push of the rod, the cave door opened and, taking the lantern from Anna, I led them into the cave. As I’d done before, once we were inside the cave, I handed the lantern to Mr. Greenburg.

“Look to your heart’s content, I know you’re curious. There is a second smaller cave back there with a strong running stream so be careful. I’ll wait here while you explore.”

While the Greenburgs were exploring the cave, Anna handed me a second lantern and told me that she was going to close the cave so she could let the others out of the den. They’d seen it all before and felt that Anna and I needed a little one on one time with the Greenburgs.

The cave door had just popped back open, and Anna stepped inside when the Greenburgs discovered the shelves of gold bars. They asked the usual question of how much the gold was worth.

“Well,” I said after a moment’s hesitation, as I tried to remember how many gold bars there were. “I’ve kind of lost track of exactly how many gold bars are on those shelves but the last time I counted them there was roughly eight million dollars based on the last price we got for them. There’s also another one hundred and twenty thousand dollars in cash in the bags as well. That’s two years’ worth of payroll for the Estancia.”

Mrs. Greenburg, who hadn’t said a word at all, other than when making the two promises, asked: “Is this the gold you were talking about depositing in the new bank?”

“No, Ma’am,” I replied. “The gold you see is the Estancia safety net. Hard times are coming and if we aren’t successful with everything we’re planning, we, along with the three thousand plus people on the Estancia, will need that to survive. I think you’ll understand better after you’ve seen the timeline and the plans, but just those plans you’ve heard about mean an investment about four times what you see on those shelves.”

Mr. Greenburg interrupted and asked abruptly, “So where is this timeline and the plans you keep talking about?”

With a sigh at his tone, I took Anna’s hand, and with an equally curt, “Follow me,” led the Greenburgs around behind the shelves to the RV and trailer.

Mrs. Greenburg was clearly curious about the trailer and RV but apparently decided not to encourage her husband’s ire any further and simply followed us to the door of the RV. Anna opened the door, and flipped the breakers for the power, before walking up the steps. I put out the lantern I was carrying and took the one from Mr. Greenburg, as he and his wife followed Anna inside.

After blowing out the second lantern and putting both of them on the small table just outside the RV, I followed the others into the RV. The Greenburgs were standing in the kitchen looking around and, with Anna making a pot of coffee, it was a tight fit. I brushed past Mr. Greenburg and took a seat at the kitchen table.

After glancing around, Mr. Greenburg sneeringly asked, “So where is the material?”

I’d had enough of his attitude, but before I could answer, a very angry Anna said, “Mr. Greenburg, lose the attitude, right now, or we’ll all leave, and you can go to hell!”

“Yes, please David! Your attitude is wearing very thin, even to me,” chimed Mrs. Greenburg.

He looked at his wife for a moment, the anger slowly draining from his face, before turning to Anna.

“I apologize for my rudeness, please forgive me. The sight of all that gold made my suspicions rise to the surface again,” he explained.

Anna simply nodded, and after asking if anyone wanted iced tea or water, poured herself and Mrs. Greenburg a glass of iced tea from the refrigerator. With the coffee still a minute or two from being done, I turned on the lights in the living area and pointed to the wall.

“There’s the timeline we were talking about. It’s everything I could remember from 1850 to 1920. I couldn’t remember the exact dates and, in some cases, couldn’t remember the exact years, so I did the best I could. Some of the details you’ll be reading in a few minutes came from the encyclopedia, and some come from reports my kids did in school. Each item on the timeline that we want to influence has a circled number next to it. Each circled number is the corresponding number of the plan we have developed, to this point.”

Mrs. Greenburg turned to Anna, “Kids? Encyclopedia? School? Oh! He meant his children from his first marriage. This,” she said waving her arm to indicate the entire RV, “is amazing, but I think I’m becoming overwhelmed by everything coming so fast.”

Anna patted her arm consolingly. “Yes, it was confusing the first time I saw it, too. Let’s back up a little and have Paul tell you about this vehicle, some of the wonders it contains, a little about his kids, education from his time, and then we’ll get into the timeline and plans. How does that sound?”

Mr. Greenburg was impatient to get to the timeline and plans but his desires were preemptively overridden by his wife’s response, “That sounds wonderful, my dear, let’s do that.”

While Anna was preparing two cups of coffee, I explained the RV, and the kitchen appliances, which prompted Anna, in turn, to start a bag of popcorn in the microwave. Even Mr. Greenburg was impressed by that.

While we munched on popcorn I explained about universal education, what a computer system was, and the encyclopedia that came with the system. I took the time to turn on the computer and call up the encyclopedia so they could see it and taught them to use the search function before showing them the timeline file. Once they understood computer basics, I turned to the reports my three kids had written in school.

“Laura, my first wife, and I decided long ago that one of the things we would leave our children was a scrapbook of their education. Each of our children had a box that we stored all their report cards, certificates, awards, photographs, and reports in. Our thought was that we would give each of them a record of their school years bound into a scrapbook.

“Laura died before we could get them bound, I wasn’t planning on getting them bound for another year or so when the fog sent me here to 1850. As it turned out, many of their reports were History reports, most of which were specific topics of interest to them in New Mexico state history.

“As I said before, most of the items on the timeline I recalled from my own schooling and interests, but the specifics came from the encyclopedia or my children’s school reports. By the way, I scanned the relevant reports into the computer and put them in the appropriate plan file.”

By this time, they were both overwhelmed by the technology, so I pointed to the timeline I’d printed out, taped together, and pinned to the living room wall. “For now, I recommend you use the timeline on the wall to get a better feel for the extent of history we’re talking about.”

Mr. Greenburg nodded and asked, “What about the plans you’ve referred to?”

Anna got up and retrieved two, three-inch binders from the living room table, and handed one to each of the Greenburgs saying, “Each of these binders contains a copy of all the planning, with supporting documentation. Each plan is tabbed with a number, as Paul said earlier, that corresponds to the circled numbers on the timeline. If it’s not obvious, it’s going to take a while, a few days, if not longer, for you to read and digest everything on the timeline and what’s in these binders. If you truly want to understand what we are doing, and, more importantly, why we are doing it, then you’re going to have to get intimately familiar with all of this. If you want to come in here and read or review the material just find Paul or me. If you can’t find one of us, or we are busy, find my grandparents or Tom or Yolanda and one of them will let you in.”

Mr. Greenburg started to object but Anna held up her hand, overriding him, and continued. “Before you object to being escorted, it’s not because we don’t trust you, it’s because to the rest of the Hacienda, you have no reason to be in the den by yourself with the door barred. The last thing we want to do is raise suspicion about what is stored in the den.”

Seeing that both Greenburg’s understood her explanation, Anna went on, “We have about two hours until dinner if you want to start reviewing this now.” At both of their nods, she gave me a brief look, and said, “In that case, Paul and I will leave you to get started. We’ll be in the den if you have problems or questions. There’s more iced tea in the refrigerator and plenty of coffee in the pot. If you need more just let us know and we’ll fix more. A lantern and matches are on the table just outside the RV door if you need to come get us.”

Seeing their nods, we both wished them well and walked back into the den, leaving the cave door open for the time being.

“I’m sorry, my love,” Anna said she cuddled into my lap on the couch. “I forgot to answer your question about this part of the plan until we were back together, and you’d started telling them the details about your story, the dreams, and Laura’s whispers. By then it was too late.”

“That’s all right, Anna,” I assured her. “When you first sprang it on me, I wasn’t too sure it was a good idea, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that they were never going to believe us without seeing everything. I just hope it works. It’ll be a lot easier if they are on our side.”

“Exactly! I think it’ll work if anything will. Those plans and the timeline they are based on is just what they need to see. You wrote each plan with a clearly stated objective, the historical ramifications, with supporting documentation, the specific acts you think need to happen and when they need to happen, so that each plan is successful. We’ve also included other supporting documentation for each plan, like a copy of the actual land deeds and the trusts. You’ve also estimated the costs necessary for each plan to be successful. If they don’t believe us now, they should by the time they’re done reading everything.”

“I think you’re right, I sure hope so anyway,” I sighed. Trying to lighten the mood, I followed up with, “It’s a shame we’re stuck in here, we could be upstairs practicing to get JJ a baby brother or sister,” wiggling my eyebrows at her.

Anna brightened right up, smiled, and asked, “How about I refresh the coffee and then you try singing me some of those new songs you’ve been practicing?”

“Well, if practicing upstairs is out, I guess your suggestion is the next most pleasurable way to while away a few hours,” I replied with a down heartened look on my face.

Anna gave a big laugh, got up from my lap, and picked up the coffee service tray, and slipped out the door after checking to make sure no one was in the hallway.

“Yolanda is looking after JJ until dinner, so we’re all set,” Anna said after slipping back in the door with fresh coffee less than five minutes after leaving. “I’m really looking forward to this. It’s been a long time since we’ve had any real-time together alone during the day.”

“I agree. We really need to set aside a couple of hours every week just for the two of us,” I replied as I finished tuning the guitar. Curious, I asked, “If Yolanda is with the babies, what’s Tom doing.”

“He and George rode out to check the quarry, but I think they really just needed to get away from all the babies for a while,” she said as she curled up on the couch with a cup of coffee. “Now play, please.”

I knew the type of songs she wanted to hear, and I’d been practicing almost a dozen of them for the last few months. Of course, I’d gotten better at some and those were the ones I decided to play. I started out a three-song set with, “A Very Special Love Song”, followed by, “I Can Love You Like That”, and finishing with, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You”.

When I was done, we talked about inconsequential things for a while before I launched into the next three-song set. I started with “Love Is A Many Splendored Thing,” then switched tempo and sang, “From A Jack To A King”, and then switched tempo yet again, finishing with, “One Boy, One Girl”.

We talked again, well, Anna talked, and I listened for the most part, as I relaxed my vocal muscles. She was concerned about all the travel everyone was going to be doing over the next few years.

“Anna, my love, Steve is the only one who will be traveling without a loved one with him, but he won’t be alone. He’ll have two teams with him for security. Everyone else will be traveling in fairly large groups, and, where possible, with his wife. We both know that unexpected things happen in life, but I don’t think there’s anything to worry about. Speaking of travel though, we really need to get your grandparents alone and bring them up to speed on our plans for them. I don’t like the idea of springing our plans on them at the last minute. The longer we wait, the harder it’s going to be to get them to agree.”

“I agree, Pablo. Speaking of plans, I know that Tom and Yolanda have access to them but I’m not sure they’ve looked at them in the last couple of weeks. They should probably be in the room when we explain what we want grandmother and grandfather to do.”

“Good idea,” I replied. “I guess with as busy as we’re all going to be, we really need to schedule coordination meetings more frequently.”

“Yes, and it’s going to have to be with two separate groups, the planning group, and the Segundo group,” she said deep in thought.

“Okay, let’s try to get the planning group together tomorrow in here while the Greenburgs are going through the plans. That way we kill two birds with one stone. We can talk with the Segundo group as part of the annual review coming up next week.” Anna nodded her agreement. “Enough serious talk, you wanted to hear some more songs,” I said as I picked the guitar back up from where I’d leaned it against the wall.

I started this three-song set with “Besame Mucho”, then continued the theme with, “Quando, Quando, Quando”, before switching and ending with, “Never My Love”.

“Pablo, that was quite good, you’ve obviously been practicing even more than I knew,” Anna said as she picked up my coffee cup.

“Well, maybe just a little bit. You know, “Quando, Quando, Quando”, is much better as a duet. Think you might be able to find time to practice it with me?” I asked.

“You know I’d love to! Maybe we can start after dinner?” she replied enthusiastically.

“Sounds good to me,” I said. “That reminds me. I have scoring for three instrumentals I want to give to Manuel Rivera the next time we go to Las Cruces. Please remind me if I forget.”

“I can do that, Pablo. Now, we only have a few minutes before they’ll be coming to tell us dinner is ready so sing me some more songs please.”

With only a few minutes left I played our three special songs, starting with ‘Impossible Dream’, then “Keeper Of The Stars”, and ending with “Anna’s Song”.

As I was putting the guitar away, the Greenburgs walked out of the cave, and, simultaneously, there was a knock at the door letting us know that dinner would be ready in ten minutes.

Looking to make sure the cave door was closed; Anna unbarred and opened the door to the hallway to thank Celia. Closing the door before leaning back against it, she turned to the Greenburgs.

“I take it everything is going all right? Do you have any questions about what you’ve read so far?”

“Oh, my lord, do I have questions,” Mrs. Greenburg exclaimed. “Right now, I just don’t know where to start. Besides, I’m sure most of my questions are answered in the plans.”

Mr. Greenburg chimed in, “You weren’t kidding when you said it would take us a while to read and understand everything you’re trying to do. We may need two or three days to get through it all and another day or two to think about it.”

Anna smiled. “Take all the time you need. There’s no hurry from our point of view. Although, as you heard, dinner will be ready in a few minutes so that’s the end of your reading for the day.”

Anna stood back up, opened the door, and led everyone out of the den. We split up at that point with Anna and me going upstairs to wash up for dinner. On our return downstairs, we found the dining room filled up with the usual people and noise. As we settled into our chairs, Christina and both daughters filed in from the kitchen, each carrying large platters heaped full of tamales, something we hadn’t had in quite a while. The tamales were joined a minute later by bowls of salsa, pico de gallo, corn chips, and frijoles.

After dinner, we did indeed spend the evening learning “Quando, Quando, Quando” as a duet as well as playing other songs anyone asked for.

I was interested to see that Mr. Greenburg appeared distracted during both dinner and the music evening that followed. Mrs. Greenburg, on the other hand, seemed like her usual cheerful self, taking an active interest in the conversations around her and the music.

The next morning, Anna confirmed that she had quietly talked to the planning group while I was singing last night and all four of them would join us in the den after breakfast.

Breakfast was the usual rowdy and noisy activity it usually is, yet Mr. Greenburg still seemed to be distracted. Much like the previous evening, he rarely said a word, and even then, it was a response to a question or comment directed specifically to him. I didn’t know what to make of it but hoped he was trying to reconcile the differences between what he thought he understood and what he was learning.

Breakfast over, we filed into the den, and the others made themselves comfortable while I let the Greenburgs into the cave and turned on the lights in the RV so they could continue their reading.

As I walked back into the den Anna was saying, “Grandmother, Grandfather, after a lot of thought, Paul and I are going to ask you to do something for us. Something that you may feel you’re too old to do, but we both feel you are uniquely qualified to do.”

Yolanda interrupted Anna at that point, “Tom and I feel the same way.”

“Well, now that we’ve got you both curious and have your attention, I’ll turn it over to Paul,” Anna said with a smile.

“I’ll start with you Sir, as the task is more straight forward ... at least, explaining it is. In a nutshell, what we want you to do is sell your freight and livery business to Martin Amador later this year or early next year and take the position of Vice President of Freight with the Thunderbird Railroad.”

He started to object but I stopped him with a hand and continued, “Please hear me out and then think about it.” He finally nodded and I continued, “Your pay will be one hundred dollars a month and a ten percent stake in the railroad. I guarantee that Martin will have the money before you offer to sell him the business. I know this because I want both you and him to accompany Tom and me, as well as Kit, to dig gold at the Colorado River site this spring. In return, you will know the location of the site and you’ll receive one half of a wagon load of gold each. A half wagon load of gold is just under one million dollars. I’ll explain more about the gold trip and later trips another time.

“For now, I’ll stick with the new job we’re offering you. You probably already figured out that once the railroad starts running the long-haul wagon freighters along the Camino Real will be put out of business. Instead, they’ll have to focus almost exclusively on the routes south of Las Cruces into Mexico if they want to stay in the long-haul business. Alternatively, they could turn to specializing in the short-haul routes from our four stops, Las Cruces, Socorro, Albuquerque, and Santa Fe, to the villages and towns. I’m sure you would still be profitable pursuing either, or both, possibilities, but your profits and success would be down. Perhaps significantly down.

“Instead of pouring your time and energy into coming up with replacements for the long-haul routes you now have, we’d like you to set up the railroad’s freight operations. Make no mistake, it’s going to be a tough job as you’ll have to start from scratch. You’ll set our freight prices, set weight limits for box cars and flat cars. You’ll have to figure out what the stock charges are, how much hay, grain, and water will be needed for each type and head of stock. How many corrals will be needed at each stop. How many freight workers are going to be employed at each of the four stops. How should the workers be organized, and how much should they be paid. What equipment will be needed to load and unload freight and stock and, just as importantly, does that equipment need to be included in the design Jorge will be drawing up.

“To come up with the answers to all of these questions you, and Mrs. Mendoza, will need to take a trip east next fall to talk to as many railroad freight operations as possible. Steve should have the names and locations for you to visit by then. At each place Steve recommends, you need to talk to both the managers and the workers. Find out what’s working, what’s not, and what could be done better or easier.”

Seeing the pensive look on his face, I decided to stop while I was ahead of the game. “Please think about it and let us know what you decide.”

At his nod, I turned to Mrs. Mendoza. “As for you, we’d like you to take on the job of Vice President of Restaurant Operations. You would also be paid one hundred dollars a month and receive a ten percent stake in the railroad.”

I waited a few moments for the shock to leave her face before continuing. “Initially we’ll have two classes of customers; first and second class. Meals will be included in the price of the ticket, but the meals will be different for the two classes and the setting will be different as well. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner will be served in the restaurants at all four stops, but the restaurants will be open for anyone who wants to eat there, not just railroad passengers. Everything about the restaurants, from how big, how many staff, how much they get paid, what food is on the menus, and where the food is coming from needs to be determined. That’s the job we want you to do. Other items, like a news, sundry, and shoeshine stand will also come under you.

“On your trip with Mr. Mendoza, you’ll be visiting restaurants associated with each railroad, if they have them. You’ll also have lunch and dinner at as many high-end restaurants, in as many large cities as you can fit in: Philadelphia and New York to name just two cities. You’ll evaluate their menus, find out how each item is prepared, and get the recipes if you can.

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