The order reverberated around the hacienda courtyard sending the vacqueros racing to vantage points, rifles at the ready.
There were men rushing to the portico, others moved swiftly behind the adobe walls of Senorita Teresa’s garden.
Miguel Diego panted as he stumbled up the steep stone steps to take his place on the roof – a good spot to pick off the men of ese hijo de puta, Pardee. Licking his dry lips, he pushed his sombrero back and crouched behind the low wall, cradling his rifle in his arms and readying himself for when the men were within range.
Breathing hard, he peered down to where the patron’s son was directing the men, like he’d been born to give orders to others. Still, Senor Scott seemed a good, sensible sort – for a Gringo. And it was good to see the patron letting his son take charge. He’d been in the army, so Cipriano said and it seemed that Cipriano, as usual, was right. So it was in the army where the gringo had learned a trick or two, like the trick they’d played on Pardee. That had been clever. All of the vacqueros had enjoyed fooling Pardee. Si, Senor Scott was okay.
He took a deep breath, trying to calm his racing heart as he waited for the order to fire. But then there was the other son, Madrid. Miguel swallowed hard as he recalled his emotions when he heard that Madrid had left after rowing with the patron. The news had spread quickly among the returning vacqueros. There had been angry words by all accounts after the patron had ordered his son to ride out with Senor Scott. Madrid had stormed out and headed to town. That was what old Pedro had said.
Miguel sighed. If the Lord was good he would send Madrid back to the ranch. The Lord would make sure that Madrid thought again and returned to his new family, to help them in their hour of need.
“Hold your fire. Wait for them to come into range.” Si, Senor Scott knew his business.
Miguel licked his lips again, squinting against the early morning son. He raised his hand to shield his eyes as he peered at the group of approaching riders, the thundering of hooves echoing around the valley.
Madre de Dios! But surely that was a palomino out front? Like the one that Madrid had broken just the day before. Miguel could feel his hopes rising. Surely it was the same horse? Yes! It was. Madrid was coming back.
He could hear the patron crying out that it was Johnny.
Yes! The Lord was good. He had answered Diego’s prayers and sent Madrid home once more.
He watched as Madrid cleared the fences, crouched over the horse’s neck, riding flat out as though the devil himself was snapping at his heels. Yes! Madrid was almost home safe.
He crossed himself and offered up a quick prayer of thanks to God. A good God indeed, to send Madrid back...
And then everything around him seemed to slow and he heard the breath catch in his throat as he watched Madrid suddenly jerk upright and then drop like a stone from the saddle.
No! It wasn’t fair! For Madrid to get so close and for this to happen! How could God be so cruel to Miguel?
God knew that Miguel wanted Madrid kept safe... When Madrid had turned out to be one of the patron’s long-lost sons, he’d been so sure that God was on his side.
Tears pricked his eyes. And after all his plans, his dreams... for Madrid to fall to the bullet of some unnamed killer. No, it truly wasn’t fair.
He spat on the ground.
The smell of cordite and the battle raging around him faded into the background as he thought of God’s injustice. It should have been him, Miguel Diego, who sent that hijo de puta to Hell.
It should have been him pulling the trigger and seeing that mestizo, Madrid, fall.
For then he would have avenged poor Rosita.
Still crouching, he crossed himself at the thought of his dark eyed sister, left alone to carry Madrid’s child.
Rosita dying in agony giving birth to Madrid’s bastard child.
He spat again. That cold hearted, blue eyed half-breed had ridden out of Rosita’s life without as much as a backward glance. A man who cared for nobody and nothing. Yes. Madrid had deserved to die and he, Diego, had planned to pull the trigger.
He peered down at the still figure of Madrid, hoping to see the blood pooling around him, hoping the bastard had suffered before the end came.
But the figure was moving... stirring, struggling to lift his gun...
Miguel leaped to his feet bringing his rifle up and taking aim...
The bullet caught him full in the chest. An explosion of pain scorched through his body as he stumbled and toppled forward off the roof.