“Let’s walk away from here. Blas waits nearby.” Brother David bent to take a small bundle from the campsite. “Come with me. We’ll take the hill behind the camp.”
Why did he say that? Did Brother David hear Blas’s ghost, too? Sal peered into the shadows surrounding the camp. He noticed the natives kept their distance; gathered around the fire, they looked away from him.
Talking about Blas’s death relieved Sal’s grief. Feeling more relaxed, he left the pistol under a blanket then followed Brother David toward the hill. They began a slow climb on a sandy slope. Dry scrub brush swept at their ankles along the narrow trail. Unburdened by his confession, Sal talked nonstop.
“We thought you abandoned us in Ciudad de México. We were slaves in the Presidio stables. I figured, well Blas too, figured out a way to escape. What a horrible trek with Father Serra on his return trip to Alta California,” Sal said. His memory mingled with his imagination. He wove a seamless plot.
“Remember our old rickety ox cart? I dragged the same carretera with Coronel Jimenez.” He deserved some credit for his hard work. “We searched for our own water, food, kindling, even the route to the coast.” Sal skipped the stories about selling church goods along the way and stories about pulque and women. “Jimenez knew a lot, but he did not survive in the end.” He stopped himself before saying anything about his days with the pirates.
“I can tell that you carried a heavy load, Salvador. Que làstima, how sad,” Brother David said. “Traveling with a broken heart is one of life’s greatest burdens.” How did Brother David know this?
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