Mordecai Slate, Doc Washburn, and the Reverend Powell rode on through the snow, the memory of what had occurred in Rio Muerto still blazing in their minds. The thick New Mexican snowflakes stung Slate’s cheek as he kept Dutch, his buckskin horse, set on course due north on the Camino Real. The doctor and the reverend followed in the wagon.
An hour later, the snow was heavier, visibility almost zero. A dark shape loomed up ahead. As they approached Slate saw it was a small lean-to built on the side of the road–a dilapidated relay station. Slate saw there was someone inside, two small figures hidden in the dark interior of the lean to. They were huddled together behind a feed trough filled with straw. Two homeless Mexicans caught in the storm. And then Slate saw the baby lying in the straw in the feed trough.
Slate dismounted and the other two men climbed down from the wagon. Slate saw that the Mexicans, a man and a woman, were very young, and the baby was newborn.
Slate and his companions stared down at them. As poor and desperate as they were, there was something about them. Some kind of peaceful feeling seemed to surround the lean-to. After all that they, Slate and the others, had experienced in Rio Muerto, it was like a soothing balm that healed.
Slate took some of the gold coins Don Pedro had given him for hunting down Kord Manion and dropped them in the woman’s lap. Doc Washburn opened his bag and examined the child. He gave the woman some medicine for colic. Reverend Powell stood over them, making a sign of the cross with his hand. And the wind and snow howled outside all around them.
Happy Holidays, everyone.
Copyright (c) 2013 John M. Whalen