Alvarez dug his heels into the horse’s sides and rode off. I walked toward the hacienda in a daze. Leòn stood beyond the rear gate looking in. I beckoned and he came over to me.
“Are you alright?”
“Sì.” He looked past me at the stable and at the empty corral.
“He is gone, my friend. He took the other horse. He will be gone all day.”
“Good.” Leòn managed a little smile. “His anger is like the lighting…but he is a good Patròn, very strong.”
“Leòn, are there any other people like la señora, who live here at El Paradiso?”
He leaned in closer and looked deep into my eyes. I thought for sure he was going to say something, but he hesitated and shook his head no. “No señor, moonlight and the mist can make you see things…that you shouldn’t…things that are really not there.” Leòn passed through the rear gate.
I returned to the kitchen and poured more coffee. I didn’t have much of an appetite. The scene of the mauled horse was still too raw and the way Leòn cowered and pleaded for his life when he faced Alvarez still haunted me.
I wasn’t there for more than a few minutes when Alma joined me. She wore a light-cotton, loosely tied, house coat over her pale green night gown that left little to the imagination. It was obvious that she just awoke. Her hair was uncombed and she had a sleepy look in her eyes. She smiled when she saw me. “Buenas dias, Emilio, did you sleep well?”
I had an urge to hug her, for no other reason than I needed a little reassurance. I of course refrained and put on a pleasant face. “Quite a night, and quite a…terrible morning so far.”
“What do you mean?” She poured coffee for herself and spread some pineapple preserves on her toast. She brushed her arm against mine when she sat on the stool next to me.
“I’m afraid some wild animal attacked and killed El Cid.”
A look of disbelief and concern crossed Alma’s face. “Oh dear, that is awful. Really? He was such a beautiful horse.”
I was surprised that she didn’t ask about Hèctor. “El Señor, he didn’t take it very well. I’m afraid poor Leòn was the brunt of his anger.”
“Ah…I thought I heard the gunfire. He shoots his pistol when he is frustrated or angry. We are all used to his tantrums. Poor Leòn and poor El Cid.” Alma took a sip of coffee. “Yes, he loved his precious horse. He loves his pistol. You know, it’s a .357 Magnum. He loves to shoot it. I think he loves to scare Leòn and the rest of the help with it. In one way he is a very simple man.”
“Yes, when he shot toward Leòn, I could see that he purposely missed him by quite a bit, but still.”
She softened her tone, “It must have really hurt him to see his horse like that.” She reflected on something for a few seconds, then with a puzzled look on her face added softly, “I truly am sorry for the horse and for Hector.”
Alma put her cup down and stretched in such a liquid and exotic way I could feel the sensuality course through her outstretched arms and arched torso. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. She caught me looking, smiled and said. “I do love a good stretch, don’t you?”
I caught my breath before I answered. “Oh yes…Hèctor wanted me to tell you he would be back by dinner.”
“I suppose he’s quite upset. He does that when he is upset. He rides off and does God knows what.” She ate the last bit of her toast and drank the rest of her coffee. “Let me dress. I would like to see what I should do about El Cid.” She then added with sadness, “I shall miss him too. I’ll be down in a few minutes.”
Even with what just happened, I was mesmerized by the lithe movements Alma made with her hips and legs and shoulders as she slipped away into the hallway. I’d never been around a woman who exuded such sensuality. I sighed and let my shoulders go limp.
I tried to process all of the things that had happened so far, the jaguar on the balcony, the strange woman in the mist, the mauled horse, Alvarez shooting at the poor indio, and Alma, beautiful Alma, left me emotionally exhausted. “I’m here to build an electrical system, nothing more. Remember that,” I reminded myself as I dallied over my coffee and mango. But even so, I was involved for not mentioning the jaguar that jumped off the balcony…or the woman who went with it down into the jungle.