Read The Vanquished Online

Authors: Brian Garfield

The Vanquished (8 page)

But the ex-governor's brother Jesús still fought. Today it was Giron's mission to guard his general while the troops went into the city and rooted out the guerrillas. By the end of the day, it should be over. Jesús Gandara had but few remaining men.

“The attack will begin soon,” Pesquiera said. He picked up a knotty twig from the ground and used it to comb his beard. “Giron.”

Sí, general?

“How many men did you say you have in reserve?”

“Two companies.”

“Good. Very good. I am in hopes we will have no need of them.”

“I, too.”

“We will make use of them if we must,” Hilario Gabilondo said, in choppy tones. “Nothing must prevent us from routing the last of them. They are pigs—they must be crushed. We will take the city at any cost.”

City. Giron looked down upon the adobe-bounded square, the few narrow streets, the trees of the dusty town.
Gabilondo's glory is all in his head
, he thought. Pesquiera said, “You are too bloodthirsty, Hilario. In due time the last of them will retire. You can see the governor's palace from here, amigos. Tonight we will raise our cups and drink to one another in that palace.”

,” Gabilondo said. “Tonight.” He eased his muscular squat frame around to consider the sky. “We have made a very successful campaign. Who would have foretold how short it has been?”

“We have been fortunate,” Pesquiera said. “I only wish that Manuel Gandara himself were down there in Ures.”

Giron thought of him—Don Manuel Gandara. About fifty, he was, of pure Castilian blood, a tall and muscular man. Ruthless, powerful. He owned not only the Topahui grant but eight or nine large
, with mines on them. Truly, he was a despot—now to be deposed.

“It is my feeling,” Gabilondo said stiffly, “that Gandara is back in the mountains with his Yaqui friends. Friends—bah. I pray soon he will find out just what kind of friends he has bought for himself. The Yaquis will give him little enough support, once they find his power has been crushed.
Mi general
, I would like your leave to lead a party into the Sierra Madres. I will cut them to pieces and bring Gandara's head to you.”

Pesquiera waved a hand flutteringly, lazily. “You are too impatient, Hilario. Your thirst for death is too anxious. There is time for everything—and if you hope to outwit the Yaquis in their own stronghold, then you are not as wise a man as I had thought.”

Giron listened to this conversation while his eyes remained on the flitting shadows in the brush below. Soon those shadows would achieve the rim of the flats. Giron observed, with some soldierly contempt, that if he were Gabilondo, then he personally would be down there to lead the troops. It was a general's place. But no; Gabilondo sat here safe on the hillside. Behind the hill waited Giron's reserve force of two companies—peons, volunteers. Well armed, they were, with the
guns; but Giron had his doubts about their courage, their marksmanship, their fighting ability. He blinked. Ah, well; a man could but do with what he had.

Gabilondo's head jerked up. “
,” he swore. “
. The fools are too close to the open—they will expose themselves.
” Gabilondo strode away, leading his horse, mounting up when he had achieved the concealment of the tall brush.

Giron stood alone on the hillside then with Pesquiera, and Pesquiera said in a tone of dry amusement, “One would think that Gabilondo was mapping a vast campaign, instead of a small action. Ah—here comes our new governor.” He turned, sweeping off his hat.

Riding down between the mesquites and manzanitas was a diminutive man, point-bearded, bright of eye—José de Aguilar. Aguilar was to act as figurehead governor. It was, Giron knew, a temporary state of affairs meant to placate the government at Mexico City; in time Aguilar would be quietly disposed of and Pesquiera himself would step into his place.

But Aguilar, knowing none of this, rode forward with the proud bearing of a leader. Dismounting, he handed his reins to Giron and turned to Pesquiera, showing him no more than the deference a man shows his hireling. “Here you are, my friend.” Pesquiera only smiled slightly and bowed with exact courtesy. “Welcome,” he said softly. “From this gallery, my governor, you shall watch the last act unfold in our little revolutionary drama.” And Pesquiera, eyes a-twinkle, swept his arm off toward Ures, quiet in the sunlit valley. Giron, made uncertain and dour by intrigues, only watched expressionlessly. Downhill there was a horseman's hat bobbing forward through the brush, Hilario Gabilondo's hat. Gabilondo reached the edge of the open flats, lifted his hat and leaned forward in the saddle, galloping out toward town. Giron felt mild surprise to see Gabilondo actually leading the attack.

It was farcical; even Giron, loyal as he was, had to admit that. A few puffs of white powdersmoke went up from the town walls, followed a short time later by the distant crack of musketry. Gabilondo's regiment assaulted the adobe walls, swept over them and drove through the streets of Ures. There was very little shooting.

“A simplicity,” Pesquiera said fifteen minutes later, when tiny figures on the distant town plaza were seen herding prisoners together. “Gabilondo's great charge,” Pesquiera murmured, and laughed low in his throat. “Governor?”

“Yes?” said Aguilar.

“I trust you did not forget to dispatch a man to San Francisco.”

“To General Cosby,” Aguilar said, and smiled complacently. “I did not forget, old friend. One of my best men left by sea four days ago from Port Lobos.”

“Good,” Pesquiera said. “It might prove embarrassing to have Cosby crawling up behind us with his proposed thousand-man filibustering army.” He turned to Aguilar and grinned, touching the small man's pointed shoulder. “We must have none of that, eh, Governor?”

“None of that,” Aguilar echoed mildly, and Giron, frowning, wondered what it was they were talking of.


On the twenty-first of January, Charley boarded the
Sea Bird
at its San Francisco wharf. He was early for sailing; the others had not yet arrived. Black water lapped at the gunwales and the sidewheels; the ship rubbed gently against the dock, and the gangplank swayed and bowed under his weight when he went up, hauling his carpetbag and rifle and the new overcoat his advance wages had bought him. The carpetbag was heavy with the weight of a Navy Colt revolver and its accoutrements—bullets, mould, powder flask, percussion caps, cleaning gear.

He made his way to the sleeping quarters below decks and stowed his gear there, carpetbag and rifle, underneath a swaying hammock. This steerage hold was like a long low-roofed dormitory, with flat bulkheads fore and aft, and precious little light admitted by the spotted portholes. It was a bleak, windy Wednesday and now, at seven in the morning, the fog was beginning to clear off the bay. He went to a porthole and looked through at the teeming streets of the town. A Chinese with vast sleeves stood by the open tailgate of a wagon, hawking souvenirs at the dock entrance, his hair tied back in a pigtail. The town sloped up precariously from the wharves. Two large Negroes tooled a heavy freight wagon onto the dock and cables came down from the deck above, hooking onto the cargo.

The packet would not begin to board the Crabb party for half an hour yet. The quiet was unsettling. Charley took a turn up through the hatch and hauled out onto the deck for a breath of harbor air. Seamen were busy fitting cargo into a forward hold. The captain, a tubercular-looking figure in a shapeless greatcoat and seagoing cap, stood up on the Texas deck, arms akimbo, watching the activity. Charley saw Market Street angling up through the wooden town, and absently watched the busy early-morning traffic on that thoroughfare as he huddled inside his heavy coat against the cutting chill of the harbor. A sailor with his hat at a jaunty angle came rolling by and grinned at him and went on to the cargo hoist. An overturned lifeboat was lashed at the rail, hung on a skyhook harness. He walked around the hardwood decking, admired the teak trim of the Texas ramp, and presently found himself in the saloon.

He stood aside from the door to look the place over. For a steam packet, it was a large room, characterized by a worn scarlet carpet and massive crystal chandeliers and scattered, green-felt gaming tables. It was vaguely reminiscent of the interior of Jim Woods's place, but the bar was at the wrong end of the room; otherwise the resemblance would have been striking—and Charley wondered if Woods hadn't patterned his place after some such shipboard room.

Only the bartender was present, arranging his stock behind the knurled-edge bar. Charley moved forward and took a cup of steaming strong coffee, borrowed a pack of cards and set up his solitaire game at a table. Solitaire was a good game. It kept your hands busy. Red ten on black jack. Red and black—he recalled his stepfather's maroon shirts, brought West from Creole haunts, his black pegged trousers so out-of-place on a farm, his black-leather Bible and the red-amber shine of his whisky bottle, always near at hand.

In an hour the boat was filled with a crowd. Charley was on deck once more, at the rail. The captain was shouting down from his pilot house over the Texas deck. The teamsters on the dock made way for a hansom, and Charley saw two men step down: Henry Crabb and a Mexican, probably Crabb's brother-in-law, Sus Ainsa. Crabb turned and a dark, slight woman emerged from the cab on his arm. Crabb leaned forward and planted a gentle kiss on the woman's lips. She was dressed in black, which made her appear very small and fragile. Crabb touched her cheek with a finger and the woman got back into the cab. Then he whipped his arm up and the cab driver nodded and began backing the horses to turn around; Crabb stood on the wharf until the cab went from sight up the cobblestone street. Two men in livery were carrying luggage on board, and presently Crabb and his brother-in-law came up the ramp. Ainsa was lanky and darkly handsome; he moved in a loose-jointed manner and had an easy smile. Those two men went directly around into Crabb's cabin suite. From overhead, the captain shouted: “Haul in the planks!”

The forward plank was drawn up and the crew converged aft to pull in that gangplank. A crowd of men rushed onto the wharf and one of them bawled, “Leave that Goddamn plank down!”

Charley recognized Chuck Parker and Bill Randolph in that crowd, a roistering loud bunch of burly men. The crewmen looked at one another with uncertainty; a man detached himself from that group and moved toward the upper deck, where the captain and pilot stood watching. But by then, Bill and Parker and the others were on board, grinning derisively at the crewmen. “All right,” Bill said. “You can haul it in now.” Laughing, he slapped a sailor on the back and wheeled forward with his retinue, a filthy mass of men smelling of whisky and body stink, hauling miscellaneous duffelbags and luggage, dressed in rumpled clothing.

The plank wheeled in; lines were cast off and presently the boat got underway, wheels churning, smoke lifting in a back-tilted gray column from the stack. When they steamed through the Golden Gate, Charley was at the rail near the bow, and saw the cannon emplacements of Fort Scott looming high overhead in the thin mist. The air had a flesh-biting cold in it and, huddling inside his heavy new coat, Charley went below, and found Norval Douglas savoring the taste of a cigar in the saloon.

The room had filled quickly. Charley leaned back against the bar. Douglas was observing the room's bustling activity with bemused tolerance. Above the high curve of his cheekbones his eyes burned and glowed. Charley saw the fighting streak along his friend's mouth and had the feeling that, if the mood moved Douglas, he would kill with deliberate coolness. His face, square at the jawbone, was handsome and sure; deviltry, planned or remembered, sparked in his eyes. He wore a clean brown cotton shirt and butternut trousers, and a belted Navy pistol.

A voice beside Charley said, “Whisky.” Douglas looked past Charley at that man. Charley had never seen him before; it was a tall blond man, round-faced, who turned a flashing German smile on Douglas and said, “We've met before, I think.”

“I was with William Walker,” Douglas said, extending his hand.

“Ah—that's right. I'm Zimmerman. Correspondent for the New York
.” He turned and swept the room with easy eyes. “A drink?”

“All right,” Douglas said, and introduced Charley to the man.

Zimmerman with his German smile said, “A drink, son?” and Charley shook his head. “I'll take coffee.”

“Well enough,” said Zimmerman. “Two whiskies and a coffee, bartender.”

Norval Douglas leaned back against the bar, hooking his thumbs idly in his gunbelt and letting his drink stand when it came.

“You're with Crabb, I presume,” Zimmerman said.

“Is there anyone on this boat who's not with Crabb?” Charley said.

“I don't suppose so. No one but myself and my sister.” Zimmerman pulled out a pad and began to scribble with the stub of a pencil, making corrections in something he had written there. He spoke abstractedly while he wrote. “I'm always curious to know what sparks a man to join an expedition of this kind. Is it the promise of adventure?”

“Not particularly,” Douglas murmured.

“Money, then.”

“Why, I wouldn't say that.”

“Just seeing what's over the hill,” Zimmerman suggested, not looking up from his pencil work.

“That's close enough,” Douglas said. His eyes appeared sleepy. “I've seen the hills before, but sometimes I get the feeling I must have missed something the first time.”

“You might say you were looking for answers,” Zimmerman said.

That was all well enough, Charley noticed, but before you found the answers you had to know what kind of questions to ask. He watched the brown-amber swirl of Zimmerman's drink as he gently turned the glass. The correspondent nodded over his notebook and pushed it along the bar toward Douglas. “See what you think of that.”

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