“It’s been done before.” Ah Puch interjected.
The general slammed his fist against the wall of his personal quarters. “I will not yield to that jackal, Villa.”
The windows remained shut despite the three bodies in close proximity. Chancho dabbed his brow against the stifling heat. “He will have organized a hundred of his most experienced cavalry for this mission.” Chancho emphasized the word “this” subtly, causing Obregón to tense and lean forward.
“General,” Chancho continued. “If we Rurales know this train holds special interest for President Carranza, then Villa will know as well.” Carranza and his troops had only been in Mexico City for a month, and it pained Chancho to address him as president, but he swallowed his pride for now.
“This train,” Obregón gripped the two men with his iron stare long enough for Chancho to count two lengths of rail clack beneath them, “is my responsibility. And no number of ignorant and mislead peons will stop it—”
“From reaching Corpus Christi?” Chancho leaned against the door and crossed his legs.
“With its precious cargo.” Ah Puch added just as casually.
The general’s jaw popped.
“It is our job to know everything happening in Coahuila, before it happens.”
“It is also our job to protect the Mexican government’s interests.”
“We are good at our job.” Sensing the general’s breaking point, Chancho put on formal airs before continuing. “We are here to be of service to you and your detachment in the completion of your mission.”
The train car shuddered and bucked as it coursed along a rougher section of track. Only two years old, the jarring stemmed from insufficient roadbed material and haste of application rather than age. Even as provincial governor, Carranza had known the importance of connecting the scattered, short sections of track throughout Coahuila into the continuous Tex-Mex Railway. The temporary alliance between Pancho Villa and Venustiano Carranza against President Huerta had provided the opportunity for the project to be completed.
The general took a deep breath and suddenly slapped his thigh, forcing a loud laugh. “Very well, Guardia Rural.” He scrutinized them again. “You are absolutely sure of your report?” The two men nodded. “I need to talk with my officers.” Obregón rose to take his leave.
Before he could squeeze past the two men Chancho addressed him. “General, we humbly request to see to our horses and check in with our fellow Rurales in preparation for the conflict.”
“What conflict?” The general puffed out his chest. Chancho raised a brow and waited until Obregón dismissed them with a nod of his head, allowing the two men to exit the posh personal quarters back into the echoing corridor that ran the length of one side of the train car. What had remained a muffled clacking from inside the general’s quarters thundered as a pulsing rhythm off the hardwood paneling in the hall. The smell of spent coal wafted through an open window.
“You’ll find them toward the back, if you can get there.” Obregón brushed his empty sleeve, along with its ghost arm, against Chancho’s side.
The sensation unsettled him, and Chancho knew at once why the general had chosen to leave the three-quarter sleeve stabbing awkwardly into space.
“Now excuse me.” Without further discussion the general slid the door open and leapt to the neighboring car, leaving Chancho and Ah Puch to follow him toward the rear of the train on their own.