but those wasnât what I wanted. Iâd hoped to find that little five-shot pistol.
The Mexican told me to move, so I stepped away.
He was on his knees again, putting a bedroll at the foot of the cot, gently lifting the nunâs bum leg, elevating it. âSeÃ±or, if you can get a fire going, we shall boil water. And heat up coffee and soup. When was the last time you have eaten?â
Criminy, now that he mentioned coffee and soup, my stomach started growling.
That Mexican farmer, he sure was thorough. While the coffee and soup warmed, he boiled the white shirt Iâd ripped, then cut that into more strips and fashioned a real good bandage. I reckoned that he had suffered even more accidents than me. He seemed that good at doctoring.
Folks can fool you. Iâd figured that farmer for some uncouth bum, but them big hands of his had a womanâs touch. He was gentle as he refixed the Sisterâs leg, though I am proud to say he didnât find no fault with them stitches. He cleaned her leg some more, wrapped the bandage on good and tight, and covered GeneviÃ¨ve with a pretty blanket. He also removed the purse and pouches from her pockets, and left them beside the nunâs side.
âAre you alone here?â I asked over his shoulder.
â SÃ. Unless you count the mules, burro, and goats.â He kept focused on Sister GeneviÃ¨ve. âMe llamo Jorge de la Cruz.â Grunting, he pushed himself to his feet, turned, and them Old Testament eyes of his blazed through me. He had just told me his name. Now, it ainât polite to ask a fellow his name, and he wasnât asking, but I could tell he wanted to know. Wanted to know my name, and a lot of other things.
âI am Big Tim Pruett.â Hell, it was the only handle I could think of.
âYou are not very big, seÃ±or.â
I shrugged. âThatâs what they call me.â
It satisfied him. âThe Sister sleeps. That is good. Come, SeÃ±or Pruett. We shall eat.â
While Sister GeneviÃ¨ve rested, we sat at the table, me on my second helping of tortilla soup, and Jorge de la Cruz slowly sipping coffee, glancing at the nun every now and then. At last, he asked me, âHow did you get here?â
I wiped my mouth with my left hand, then wiped my hand on my trousers. He filled my empty tin cup with more coffee, and I sipped it.
I knowed that question would come along, so Iâd been thinking on an answer. âWe was traveling on the westbound train.â That much was true. âWe left the train last night.â So was that. âShe is on her way to Anton Chico, and asked me to guide her.â
âTo the parish of San JosÃ©?â
That must have been the Catholic church there, so I nodded.
He set his cup of coffee in front of him. âWhy did you not follow the road from Romero to Anton Chico?â
âSheâs a nun. Wants to visit all the farms along the river.â
Glory to God, he believed it. His head bobbed. âAnd how did she come to cut her leg so badly?â
âIt was nighttime,â I said. âShe slipped, must have bashed her leg against a sharp rock. We was making camp just by the trestle. I didnât know sheâd cut herself. And she didnât tell me. Stubborn, she is. Stubborn as a witch.â
He didnât like that, but kept on listening, just listening and sipping and staring. Trying to catch me in a lie, but if thereâs one thing I was good at, it was lying.
I kept on talking. âMust have wrapped it herself. Never let on. I donât think she would have told me nothing, but when we crossed the Pecos to get to your farm, the cold water must have shocked her. She passed out.â
Thatâs something else Big Tim Pruett had taught me. Adding a dash of truth to your lies makes any falsehood more believable. It sure was working for me.
âItâs a miracle that I reached her before the current took her under and