A Time for Hanging

Lire ebook A Time for Hanging
Auteur: Bill Crider

A Time for Hanging

    Paco Morales had seen the woman before, had seen her often in fact, at least for the past month or so, despite the fact that his mother would always send him out of the shack when the woman was there.
    "Paco," his mother would say.   "Go and draw up a bucket of water and give it to the mule."
    Paco would dutifully go outside and lower the wooden bucket into the old well, the pulley creaking as the rope slid through it.   When the bucket hit bottom with a splash, he always waited a long time for it to fill, longer than really necessary.   Then he pulled it slowly back up, reached across the rim of the well, and pulled the bucket to him, hardly ever spilling a drop.   Then he poured that water into another bucket and took that one to the mule.
    The mule hardly ever wanted to drink.   The woman never came except late in the evenings, and by then most of the heat of the day was gone.   Paco's bare feet could still feel it in the hard-packed dirt, but the night air was cool and there was nearly always a slight breeze.
    Still, it was Paco's job to make the mule drink, or to wait until it did.   By the time he got back to the house the woman was always gone.   Paco's mother never said what it was that the woman had wanted, and Paco never asked.   There were some things his mother never discussed, and her visitors were one of those things.
    They often gave her money, which Paco knew was important to the family, especially so since his father had been killed by a gringo in a card game.   The gringo had accused Paco's father of cheating, though Paco knew that his father would never have done such a thing.
    It didn't matter what Paco thought, however.   Everyone else was quite ready to believe that the gringo was telling the truth and that Paco's father had died the way a cheater should -- shot through the heart with a .44 caliber slug.
    Paco had tried to be a man for his mother and sisters since that time.   He was, after all, fifteen years old now and could do as much work as any man.   His shoulders were wide, and they strained at the seams of his father's old shirts.   The frayed legs of the stained and faded levi's stopped far above his ankles, and his hands were broad and strong.
    His mother had not let him go out into the world, though.   He had been forced to stay around the little farm, plowing with the mule, doing the planting, fetching the water.   They had a cow, too, and some chickens, so with what they could grow and take in from the visitors they managed to get by.
    This was one visitor that would not be coming again, Paco thought as he gazed down at her.   He hardly recognized her now.
    Her dress was ripped and torn, and it bunched about her waist.   Her legs were twisted back under her, and her head was lying at a very strange angle.   There was blood on her face.
    In the moonlight, her legs were pale and white, and Paco suddenly wished that he had taken some other way home that evening.   Fear stabbed at him,

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