Back in Pedro Salazar’s corral a man lay huddled in a dim corner, his sightless eyes open to the soft radiance of the Sonora moon. A group of Mexicans stood about, jabbering. Among them was Ramon Ortego. Ramon listened and said nothing. Pedro Salazar was dead. No one knew who had killed him. And only that day he had become one of the police! It would go hard with the man who did this thing. There were many surmises. Pedro’s brother had been killed by the gringo Waring down in the desert. As for Pedro, his name had been none too good. They shrugged their shoulders and crossed themselves.
Ramon slipped from the group and climbed the adobe wall. As he straightened up on the other side, he saw something gleaming in the moonlight. He stooped and picked up a little silver crucifix.
The Tang of Life
Waring rode until dawn, when he picketed Dex in a clump of chaparral and lay down to rest. He had purposely passed the water-hole, a half-mile south, after having watered the horse and refilled his canteen.
There was a distinction, even in Sonora, between Pedro Salazar, the citizen, and Pedro Salazar, of the Sonora police. The rurales might get busy. Nogales and the Arizona line were still a long ride ahead.
Slowly the desert sun drew overhead and swept the scant shadows from the brush-walled enclosure. Waring slept. Finally the big buckskin became restless, circling his picket and lifting his head to peer over the brush. Long before Waring could have been aware of it, had he been awake, the horse saw a moving something on the southern horizon. Trained to the game by years of association with his master, Dex walked to where Waring lay and nosed his arm. The gunman rolled to his side and peered through the chaparral.
Far in the south a moving dot wavered in the sun. Waring swept the southern arc with his glasses. The moving dot was a Mexican, a horseman riding alone. He rode fast. Waring could see the rise and fall of a quirt. “Some one killing a horse to get somewhere,” he muttered, and he saddled Dex and waited. The tiny figure drew nearer. Dex grew restless. Waring quieted him with a word.
To the west of the chaparral lay the trail, paralleled at a distance of a half-mile by the railroad. The glasses discovered the lone horseman to be Ramon, of Sonora. The boy swayed in the saddle as the horse lunged on. Waring knew that something of grave import had sent the boy out into the noon desert. He was at first inclined to let him pass and then ride east toward the Sierra Madre. If the rurales were following, they would trail Dex to the water-hole. And if Ramon rode on north, some of them would trail the Mexican. This would split up the band—decrease the odds by perhaps one half.
But the idea faded from Waring’s mind as he saw the boy fling past desperately. Waring swung to the saddle and rode out. Ramon’s horse plunged to a stop, and stood trembling. The boy all but fell as he dismounted. Stumbling toward Waring, he held out both hands.