Jubal still couldn't believe it. The news refused to absorb into his psyche. Will Alchesay was not a man who let his guard down. He was impossible to get the drop on. The news he was found at the bottom of a shallow mine shaft at Sapillo Creek by an old cowboy gathering strays, churned his stomach. The cowboy said it looked like Will had been dragged to death behind a horse; the thought made his hands shake as the adrenaline flooded his system. He lay in bed, wide awake, trying not to disturb Carmen. But it was too late. Carmen reached out her hand and placed it softly on Jubal's cheek.
"Talk to me Mi Amor. Tell me what I can do to help you."
"Sorry I woke you, Carmen."
"I can feel the anger, Jubal. You forget we are connected. I feel everything you do. Tell me about Will Alchesay. Why is he so important to you?"
Jubal let out a sigh and began. "When I mustered out of the regular army and into the US Marshal service, I was assigned to 'A' Company, Sixth Calvary, out of Fort Thomas in Arizona. Will was a sergeant. He had a squad of Native American scouts who could track a flying bird in a dust storm — that's how good they were.
My grandfather, who was a Cherokee Chief, taught me everything I know about tracking, and so did Will's grandfather teach him. We hit it off immediately because of that.
The first time we worked together was when we were on the trail of a band of renegade Yaqui Indians who had come up from Mexico to raid the white settlements along the Arizona territory border.
The men were ghosts. They would swoop in, rob, plunder, and murder an entire village, and do it so quickly that they were long gone before help could arrive. The army could follow their trail for a few hundred feet, then the trail would completely disappear. No one could figure out how they did it.
"How did they do it, Jubal?"
"Hold on there, Carmen. Wait till the end of the story."
"But it takes so long when you tell a story. Why can't you just tell me the ending?" she whined.
Jubal put his hand over his mouth, his eyes wide in mock disbelief. "Carmen! Story telling is all about timing, inflection, and suspense. If I tell you the ending, at the beginning, all of that is ruined."
"Ok… go ahead then." She said with a sigh.
"Where was I? Oh yeah, I remember."
Carmen rolled her eyes.
"No one could figure out how their tracks seemed to disappear without a trace. Then one day, Will called me over to look at some tracks left after an exceptionally brutal attack. The tracks of the war party; that looked to be at least 10 men strong, headed west. After about 100 yards, all the tracks disappeared, just as they had at all the other places. The locals believed them to be ghosts who flew off after they raided and pillaged their village.
I asked Will what he thought, and he said, "at first, I thought they covered their trail right here, pulling a mesquite bush behind the last man. But they aren't lined up. They are still scattered out, not to mention that I can still cut a trail even after it has been erased; there is no trail. Now, inspect these hoof prints."
"I got on hands and knees to get a better look," Jubal explained to Carmen. "Well, I'll be switched. They are all flat." I said out loud.
Will exclaimed, "That's it Jubal! These prints are man-made. If these were hoofprints, the depth would be deeper at the toe or heel. And another thing, these ponies are shod.
"You are right Will; Native American ponies are never shod. This looks like a bunch of men who made a contraption to fit over their moccasins with a horseshoe fixed on the bottom. They made the tracks and then took the contraptions off, … walked away in moccasined feet, leaving no footprints. No one ever thought to look farther out from the village for any more tracks. "
"Here is more proof, Jubal. How many horses you ever see keep a shoe on with only two nails… one on each side?"
"These idiots beat all, don't they?
"Now, look at this. Do you remember the last two places we investigated? Both times, and this, the trail they left, always ended where the rocky terrain began. Even if it was just a foot or two of a rock outcropping. Why would they pick the hardest escape route?"
"Will, the only humans I know who would go to this much trouble to cover their tracks are white men. The Yaqui wouldn't try to hide who they were. How do we even know if they were Yaqui?" I commented.
"What happened then, Jubal?"
"Well, to save time, and make a long story short for the benefit of the impatient souls among us, they were caught." Carmen punched him in the arm.
"How did they make the tracks?" She was curious now.
"They took a flat board about five inches square, then nailed a horseshoe on the bottom. They attached a leather strap on either side of the piece of wood, forming a loop to hold the contraption on their feet like a huarache sandal. With one of these boards on each foot, they could make it look like a herd of horses tracked up the place and then just disappeared."
"Who were they? Were they Yaquis?" Carmen begged.
"One of them was. The rest were a bunch of army deserters from Fort Huachuca."
"Where is that Jubal?"
"It's by a little village named Sierra Vista in Arizona."
"How did you catch them?"
"We didn't. Will went south of the border and talked to the Yaqui leader, Jose Maria Leyba Peres."
"Gee, that's a mouthful." Carmen giggled.
"That's why they just call him Cajemé. Will told them what was happening north of the border in the Yaqui name."
"Then what happened, Jubal?"
"Well, I wouldn't want you to roll your eyes again and they get stuck that way." Jubal laughed.
"Jubal Tull! you had better stop playing around and tell me what happened!"
"Ok, ok. Well, Cajemé took a dozen of his best fighters and tracked the scoundrels down and took care of business."
"Details please, you can't leave it like that, Jubal."
"Ok, if you say so, but don't say I didn't warn you. We woke up one morning and outside the front gate there were ten lodge poles with one end buried in the ground so it would stand straight, and a severed head on each post." Carmen shivered at the description. “I'm still confused about how they disappeared.”
"That is the interesting part. Everyone assumed they came riding in on horseback. What they did was walk into the settlement in the early hours, kill everyone, rob the place, and then make hoof prints everywhere, finally going to a rock outcropping where they would travel in moccasins to where they left their horses."
"I don't know, Jubal. That sounds like a lot of work to create a mystery."
"Well sweetheart, I have never known an intelligent criminal."
“That was just one incident, Carmen. Will literally 'saved' my life on two other occasions. Once, he jumped in front of a bushwhacker's gun and took a bullet meant for me. The second time, after I had been shot and left for dead, he carried me for miles to get help.”
"Was he a big man, Jubal?"
"Well. yes and no."
"What do you mean?"
"He was only about five feet eight and weighed 155 pounds soppin' wet, but he had a heart as big as a Montana sky, and he was tougher than the back wall of a shooting gallery. Carmen, he carried me over his shoulder, my feet dragging, never stopping to rest for twelve hours straight. I would have been dead for sure if it wasn't for him.