Somewhere in a Wild West that never was…
As darkness fell, the air chilled abruptly, reminding anyone with the brain to think that winter wasn’t far away. The woman slowly uncurled herself from her crouch. She moved soundlessly away from her place of concealment and walked to where a blighted tree dominated the skyline like a rotten tooth. When she was within twenty paces of the tree a tall figure moved out of the deep blue shadow. He pushed the black Stetson back from his forehead and scratched his head.
“Miriam,” he said, “they never told me it would be you.”
“Ditto, Cuchilo. Somebody has a strange sense of humour.”
When he smiled his teeth showed very white in the moonlight.
“Somebody does indeed, although that’s for later.”
“Aye. Now we need to move.”
They jogged away, quietly and in perfect step. Cuchilo took the lead, and Mir kept station two feet back and on his right. The sky clouded over above them, and the moonlight became fitful, but Cuchilo didn’t allow a little thing like a dark sky to slow him down. After about thirty minutes of steady jogging he gestured for a stop and whistled briefly on two notes. A figure detached itself from the shadow of a clump of mesquite and came forward leading two horses. One was Cuchilo’s cream-coloured stallion, Hombre, and the other a bay gelding of unremarkable appearance. Both horses whickered a soft welcome and the boy leading them looked surprised.
Cuchilo grinned. “Hush boys.”
The horses quieted but the human boy still showed the whites of his eyes.
“It’s okay amigo. The horses know my companion quite well. This is my wife.”
The boy ducked his head respectfully and Cuchilo said something to him in that musical language nobody not born to his people could ever grasp. Grinning, the kid kissed his fingertips, before fading into the undergrowth.
Deciding there was nothing she could profitably add to the conversation Mir climbed into the saddle. Cuchilo leapt onto his own horse, before offering his most businesslike look.
“I want to be at the dry riverbed where last of the old railway line disappears into the desert before dawn.”
“That should be doable, the horses are fresh.”
He turned Hombre and headed off in what Mir knew would be the right direction – even though she herself would have had to wait for the cloud cover to disperse before she had any idea of which way to go. She clicked her tongue at the gelding and they followed where Cuchilo led.
Now she had leisure to think about it, Mir saw an irony in blindly following a man she had once loved so dearly – and who still held her soul in his hands, even if he had broken her heart when he left her. However, right now there was no help for it, and in some ways it was comfortable. Cuchilo may have decided a woman of his own people would suit him better as a wife, but that didn’t mean Mir couldn’t trust her life in his hands. She could. Okay, she was. He must have been in tune with her thoughts, because he motioned her forward so they rode knee to knee.
His voice was a bit grim when he spoke to her and if she hadn’t known better she might have imagined she saw pain in the way the muscle moved along the hard line of his jaw.
“There are things we need to speak of, but now is neither the time nor the place.” He reached over and touched the back of her hand. “Can we be partners again? At least until this job is complete.”
It almost sounded as if he regretted their parting, but that couldn’t be the truth. It had been him who ended their marriage so abruptly. She tried to file those kind of thoughts to a quiet place in her mind and turned to look at him.
“Partners it is.”
He smiled and she felt a traitorous warmth in her chest.