Valley of Fire

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Authors: Johnny D. Boggs
she drowned,” I continued. “I got her to the lean-to, found the cut, made a tourniquet, and stitched her up.”
    â€œWith a hair from Juanito.” The Mexican smiled. Well, I thought he grinned. It was hard to tell underneath that thick beard.
    â€œActually, I think it was the Jenny.”
    He nodded. “Ah, Lucía. Bueno . Lucía will like having helped save the life of a holy woman.”
    He wasn’t done with his interrogation. “But where is your valise?”
    I give him the dumb look.
    â€œClothes? Food? Bedrolls?”
    â€œOh. Well. She’s a Sister of Charity. They take the pledge. You know, live in poverty. Them kinds of things. She figured on relying on the Christian charity of homesteaders such as yourself for food and lodging.”
    He chewed on that. And before he could ask another question, I slowly rose, saying, “If you don’t mind, Señor de la Cruz, I’ll go out and put on my boots. They should be dry by now.”
    After his nod of approval, I walked back to the lean-to. Got the boots on, and looked all over where the Sister had been lying down. No pepperbox. Nothing but the crucifix I’d broken to save her hide. That I picked up, slipping it inside my vest pocket as I walked to the river. Didn’t find the Continental nowhere on that path.
    I looked downstream and upstream and into the piñon and juniper woods along the river. Upstream came the faint sound of an AT&SF train’s horn. The eastbound train was making its way toward Las Vegas, and that got me to fretting. A posse might be aboard that train. It also got me to thinking something else, because about that time the notion struck me that Sister Geneviève had lost her hideaway pistol. Made plenty of sense, what with her dangling from the side of a moving locomotive, falling off a trestle into a river, then getting practically swept downstream after she’d passed out. Yeah. That was it.
    Satisfied, I returned to the jacal.
    That’s where I found the .22. It was in Geneviève Tremblay’s right hand. She was awake, and had that “Ladies Companion” cocked and pointed an inch from the farmer’s face.

    â€œThat had better be you, Mister Bishop.” Once again, she sounded like that madam I’d knowed up around Trinidad. Didn’t look at me, didn’t lower the pepperbox, didn’t take her eyes off the burly farmer.
    â€œIt’s me,” I said, once my voice box recovered from the shock. “That’s, um, that’s Jorge de la Cruz, Sister. We’re at his farm. He fixed you up. No need thanking him with a .22 through his eyeballs.”
    Her finger relaxed on the trigger just a tad.
    â€œNot for him, ma’am, you would have bled to death.”
    She lowered the pistol, and I stepped inside while she asked in Spanish for the farmer’s forgiveness.
    â€œEs nada.”
    â€œWell,” I let the good Sister know. “I mean, I done some good doctoring to yourself. Even fished you out of the river like you done me.”
    The big farmer nodded toward me. “It is Señor Bishop you should thank, Sister.”
    I decided he was a one standup guy for a farmer.
    â€œHe stitched your cut, stopped the bleeding.” Then he was giving me a mean look, but not so Sister Geneviève could see, and I knowed why. He had stressed the name Bishop . I’d told him my name was Big Tim Pruett.
    Well, a body never can get all his lies past scrutiny.
    I give the farmer a polite grin and sat on the cot beside the nun. “I knowed I should never have given you that little pepperbox.” Turning to the farmer, I explained. “For her protection, señor. You know, not everybody in these parts is honorable, even to a woman of faith.”
    Jorge de la Cruz was by the hearth, filling a mug with hot soup. He picked my spoon up from the table, didn’t bother washing or wiping it, just dropped it in the

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