I didn’t sleep that well. I was already up, dressed and tying my boot laces when Leòn entered the room.
“Señor, I see you are almost ready. There is coffee and toast and mango for you in the kitchen.”
I grabbed my topographical charts and followed Leòn down the stairs. “Leòn, do you sleep in the house?”
“Did you hear anything last night, around eleven o’clock?”
“Maybe señor, I heard noise from the stables. But that was much later, much closer to the sunrise.”
Alvarez sat on a stool at the kitchen table. He wore a khaki shirt with his sleeves rolled up exposing his muscular arms. I could see the handle of a revolver and the brown leather holster on his hip. He sipped his coffee and raised his cup up in greeting. “Ready and on time, I like to see that in a man. So Aguila, how did you sleep?”
“I slept some, well enough.” I considered telling him about the woman and the jaguar, but I decided not to.
“Eat up my friend, I’m anxious for you to see El Cid.” He turned to Leòn, “Ready both El Cid and Athena. Make sure they have enough water, and warm Athena up. I’ll take care of El Cid.”
I sat down to eat my toast and drink the coffee. Leòn nodded and left.
Alvarez shook his head and sighed. “I tend to El Cid. I don’t trust any of these simpletons to do anything other than feed him and clean up. Leòn is one of the better ones.”
“He seems intelligent; he can certainly handle the Jeep.”
Alvarez gave a thoughtful nod. “Ah yes, you can thank me for that. I was surprised one of his kind, could learn how to drive at all. My wife Julia taught him to read some. He’s got to have some white blood in his veins, or at least mestizo. Even with all I’ve taught him, he’s still a savage.”
I was just about to eat some mango when Leòn ran back into the kitchen. He was in a state of panic. “Patròn, Patròn, something terrible has happened, come to the caballeriza, quickly, quickly!” Leòn shivered as he spoke, and with an urgent look for his master to hurry, ran out the door.
Alvarez jumped up. He took his hat of the peg by the kitchen door and put it on. I noticed the hat band was made from the skin of an anaconda. His cool demeanor heated into Latin passion as his smooth brow furrowed and his mouth twisted with rage. “I’ll kill that idiot if he so much as…as…”
Alvarez’s fierce leer got me to my feet. We rushed out the kitchen door across the side yard, and through the gate.
Leòn stood at the open stable door, unwilling to go in. Alvarez shoved him aside, stopped and fell to his knees before the mauled and bloody remains of his beloved El Cid. I was shocked at the carnage; all the blood in jagged little pools and spattered on the straw. Some vicious beast attacked the poor animal leaving slashes deep enough to expose the horse’s ruby flesh. There were puncture marks on the horse’s neck and up and down its muzzle.
“Oh my God, oh my God,” was all Alvarez could say as he shook his head and gently caressed El Cid’s forelock. “Such beauty wasted, my beautiful, beautiful friend,” he whispered.
I patted him on the shoulder in condolence, “I am sorry for your loss Señor Alvarez, I truly am.” He pulled his shoulder away in a brusque motion, stood and turned toward Leòn. The poor man’s eyes opened wide in fear.
“You fool, did you leave this door open?” Alvarez seethed.
“No, Patròn, no. I always lock the door, I locked it last night…I always lock the door.”
Alvarez un-holstered his pistol and pointed it at Leòn.
The indio squatted and held his hands in front of his face. “Patròn, please, no.”
He shot three times over the indio’s head into the door and wall. The noise was deafening. It made me flinch and my ears ring. I saw the tight beams shine through the bullet holes.
“Now, get out of my sight!”
Leòn crawled out of the stable, scrambled to his feet and ran for the rear gate that led to the selva.
Alvarez holstered the pistol, looked past me as if I wasn’t there and stormed out. I looked over at the dead horse and then out the door. Alvarez mounted Athena. He looked over at me, “Señor Aguila, today is not a good day. Tell la señora I will be back by dinner time. I am sorry for what has happened this morning.”
My attention was drawn away from Alvarez for a second when I thought I saw the figure of a woman on the other side of the corral. I looked back at Alvarez, “I will, sir. I am sorry for your loss.” When I looked back she was gone, if she was ever even there. Now, I wished I had mentioned the jaguar last night when I saw it.