The blackness swallowed her. She extended her hands to find the cave wall.
The air became cool and damp on her skin. Taste of fear in her mouth.
Why did she agree to this? They could slit her throat and no one would ever find her.
The cave narrowed into a claustrophobic passageway. They had only walked about ten yards.
Were those statues? No-rigid Villistas glared at her on both sides of the sweating walls. She smelled the grease on their bandoliers and pistols as she brushed by them.
Everyone was very close. Faint glow of a lamp from somewhere.
Faces of the revolution.
One of them was a woman with a long black skirt and a high-necked white shirt that tapered tight around her narrow waist. A holstered pistol hung midway across her torso and two belts of cartridges made a wavy “X” across her chest. A sombrero covered her thick black hair.
The woman came toward her and mumbled something that Callie could not understand.
Callie backed away nervously. “No comprendo.”
“She must check you for weapons, señorita.” A distinguished looking man with a mustache and cultured voice spoke from behind the young woman. “She is a soldadera, one of many who fight with their men, para la revolución.”
Callie stood still while she was searched, ill at ease with the hot glare of the bandits’ eyes upon her in the cramped space. Strong odors of sweat and kerosene hung in the close air.
She held her hand out to the woman. “Mi nombre es Callie. Cómo te llamas? ”
The woman was surprised that Callie wanted to know her name and looked back at the man who had spoken. He nodded his approval.
“Mi nombre es Elena, señorita,” she answered faintly.
Callie smiled and shook her hand. “Con mucho gusto, Elena. Es un nombre muy bonito.”
The young woman, hardly out of her teens, smiled with embarrassment. “Gracias,” she said, barely audible, backing away into the darkness.
“Miss Masterson. I am Ramon Fernandez. We are pleased that you come. General Villa would like to...how you Americans say it...set the record straight. Please, this way.”
He ushered her into a small dead-end passageway, where more soldiers stood on either side of a cot, upon which General Pancho Villa lay. He wore a dirty shapeless sweater and was sitting up against a wall. His right leg was stretched out, wrapped in bloody bandages and immobilized by a primitive wooden splint.
A lantern sat on a ledge and filled the space with pale yellow light.
A small candle flickered in a niche in the wall. Villa puffed on a thin cigar. A bottle of liquor sat on a small table beside the cot. She was offered a chair, so she sat down. Now smells of melting wax and cigar smoke mingled with the sweat and kerosene.
The lack of any conversation made Callie nervous, and then Villa spoke. “Buenas días, señorita. My English...it’s not so good, pero General Fernández, he help us.”
Now Callie was close enough to get a good look at the infamous Villa. He had a large head and thick neck, but a baby face, a little pudgy. His mustache made a long flat triangle under his nose, and he had short black, wiry hair, with a high forehead. In spite of the coolness, beads of sweat glistened on his face.
The prominent brown eyes held all his secrets.
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