Chancho and Ah Puch held their breath, suppressing the urge to sneeze or cough until the fine chili powder had settled among the shifting dark. The guards hesitated as well. Nothing came from Guzman’s end of the car while Torres’ muffled swearing drifted from the front.
Growing impatient to resolve the situation and move the plan forward, Chancho addressed them. “My friends, this bashfulness is getting us nowhere. Guzman, it was Guzman, right? Of course. You cannot leave your post unattended to go and get help, and besides the next car contains nothing but cargo, correct?”
Chancho paused briefly, but no response came. “And Ruiz, you also do not want to leave your post while Torres, ah, my sincerest apologies for the chili, is incapacitated. And besides you would need a command from our laryngitic Guzman. So, I’ll make you a deal. Send Torres to fetch the general, and I promise my friend and I will remain quite still until he returns. Hmm?”
He waited another moment. “We’re Rurales on special assignment to help you guys protect this precious cargo from nasty revolutionaries. All just a misunderstanding.” Finally movement echoed about the car. A gash of light and rumbling of rails spilled into the confined space as Torres presumably fumbled through the opened door and closed it behind him. “Ah, very good. Hopefully the poor guy can find his way.”
Ah Puch placed his hand on Chancho’s shoulder and nodded toward the crate they were standing on. The two men stepped down and tested the air quality, finding it back to normal. Ah Puch rubbed his hand on the side of the box and whispered, “When the door was open, I caught a glimpse. Help me crack this open.”
The two men worked quietly, jimmying their blades under the edge of the box all the way around three sides until the lid creaked open. “Mother Mary.” Even in the minimal lighting the luminescent ocean of gold cast an eerie glimmering onto their hands and faces. They allowed themselves a single smirk before replacing the lid and snugging it down. “It’s real now. It’s real, and we’re going to liberate it.” Chancho sat down on the crate and leaned back against the wall.
“All the generations of my family put together have never seen so much wealth.” Ah Puch’s hoarse whisper grew ragged around the edges. “Only the smallest fraction of it would have provided a full life for my parents, a chance to start over—escape the hacienda where they died without two kernels of corn to rub together.”
“I’m sorry, my friend. It should never have happened.” Chancho shook his head in the dark. “But we will ensure it never happens again.” He nudged his friend with his elbow. “What are you going to do with your share?”
“We have not succeeded yet.”
“Oh come on. I’ve waited this long to ask.”
Ah Puch sat quietly for several seconds. “I’m going to buy the hacienda where my parents died, and distribute the land to the peons still enslaved there—legally. I’ll make sure no one takes it from them again.”
“Will you stay there and farm?”
Ah Puch snorted. “Me? I’m no farmer. I’ve been a bandit since I was a child. There’s nothing after the revolution for me.”
“Nonsense. You could come with me to the orphanage.” Chancho leaned back. “That’s what I’m going to do with my share. I still feel guilty for abandoning the sisters. Hey,” he nudged Ah Puch, “a bunch of nuns living in the wilderness. They could use some hired protection. You know, the sort an old bandit could provide?”
Before Ah Puch could respond the door to the car slid open forcefully, flooding the space with light and the general’s thunderous voice, “Dammit! Why can’t you two stay out of trouble?”
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