They advanced toward the main road; in the distance they spied a figure of an Indian sitting on the embank-ment. They drew up to him. He proved to be an un-friendly looking old man, clad in rags; he was laboriously attempting to mend his leather sandals with the help of a dull knife. A burro loaded with fresh green grass stood by. Demetrio accosted him.
“What are you doing, Grandpa?”
“Gathering alfalfa for my cow.”
“How many Federals are there around here?”
“Just a few: not more than a dozen, I reckon.”
The old man grew communicative. He told them of many important rumors: Obregon was besieging Guada-lajara, Torres was in complete control of the Potosi re-gion, Natera ruled over Fresnillo.
“All right,” said Demetrio, “you can go where you’re headed for, see, but you be damn careful not to tell any-one you saw us, because if you do, I’ll pump you full of lead. And I could track you down, even if you tried to hide in the pit of hell, see?”
“What do you say, boys?” Demetrio asked them as soon as the old man had disappeared.
“To hell with the mochos! We’ll kill every blasted one of them!” they cried in unison.
Then they set to counting their cartridges and the hand grenades the Owl had made out of fragments of iron tubing and metal bed handles.
“Not much to brag about, but we’ll soon trade them for rifles,” Anastasio observed.
Anxiously they pressed forward, spurring the thin flanks of their nags to a gallop. Demetrio’s brisk, imperious tones of order brought them abruptly to a halt.
They dismounted by the side of a hill, protected by thick huizache trees. Without unsaddling their horses, each began to search for stones to serve as pillows.
At midnight Demetrio Macias ordered the march to be resumed. The town was five or six miles away; the best plan was to take the soldiers by surprise, before reveille.
The sky was cloudy, with here and there a star shining. From time to time a flash of lightning crossed the sky with a red dart, illumining the far horizon.
Luis Cervantes asked Demetrio whether the success of the attack might not be better served by procuring a guide or leastways by ascertaining the topographic conditions of the town and the precise location of the soldiers’ quar-ters.
“No,” Demetrio answered, accompanying his smile with a disdainful gesture, “we’ll simply fall on them when they least expect it; that’s all there is to it, see? We’ve done it before all right, lots of times! Haven’t you ever seen the squirrels stick their heads out of their holes when you poured in water? Well, that’s how these lousy soldiers are going to feel. Do you see? They’ll be frightened out of their wits the moment they hear our first shot. Then they’ll slink out and stand as targets for us.”