“Nick, you do know that it cuts both ways.” Heath said with a hint of tease in his voice. bvbvbvbvbvbvbvbvbvbvbvbvbvbvbvbvbvbvbvbvbvbvbvbvbvbvbv
“I know, but don’t even think about it. Even on your best day I can out stubborn you.” He produced a cotton bandage and a small bottle. “Now this is going to hurt.”
He splashed a few drops of the liquid onto the injured joint and began to rub. Heath nearly hit the roof.
“What is that?” He turned his nose up at the aroma
“Same stuff Mother got from the Chinese quarter. A friend gave a bottle of it once. Then Audra did her ankle, Mother rubbed this on it and it seemed to help. Now she makes us all carry some of it just in case.” He held up the bandage “Ready?”
Heath nodded and Nick made short work of binding the injury.
“Your gun hand is going to be out of action for a few days.”
“I know, but I’ll manage.” Heath gave him a dopey half grin. “Thanks Nick.”
“Okay then let’s get looking see if Gaspard left anything useful.”
A quick nose around revealed nothing much. Until.
“Nick here.” Heath called from the dirty fireplace.
In his hand scapes of paper, mostly scorched, but one fragment had managed to escape the flames.
“How’s your Spanish?” Nick asked.
“Not bad, can make out some of it.” Heath studied the paper. “ Treasure, Spanish gold clue, music box, San Juan Bautista, your father and the name Juan De la Gaspar.” He read.
“So they changed their name after they arrived here.” Nick mused. “Still looks like this all turns on whatever is in the music box and at the Mission Looks like we’re heading to San Juan Bautista.”
“Maybe Mother or Jarrod'll know something that’ll give us a clue.” Heath said.
“No time to ask, Gaspard is already at least three hours ahead of us. If we’re to catch him we’ll have to bypass the ranch and head straight out of town.” Nick plotted. “Let’s go.”
From a hiding spot not far from the main house eyes watched. The eyes had seen the Barkley brothers arrived, saw the dark one go to the well and fetch in the water and now watched and listened as they left.
“If we see Mother well we can tell her where we are going. The dark one said, “If not we’ll get Fred or Howard to tell her that were on Gaspards trail and heading for San Juan Bautista.”
The watcher continued to observe the brothers until they were out of sight and then in accordance with the second part of his instructions headed for Stockton himself. Senor Gaspard had told him to report to him any visitors to the ranch. He headed straight for the telegraph office and did as he was told.
“He’ll take the shortest route.” Nick surmised. "From here to San Jose and then down onto the Mission. That’s the way we’ll head also.” He looked at his younger brother. “Are you really sure you’re up to this?”
“Yep, no problem. Think I’d let you go alone. Who’d watch your back? Keep you out of trouble? If not me.”
“Give it to then” Fernando de la Gaspar growled. “Miguel for once must have done like he was told.”
“Trouble?” Pedro his right hand man asked.
“Miguel says two men came to the ranch after we left poke around and are now following us.”
“Barkley’s Nick and that half brother of his.”
“But Senor .” A third man piped up “How would they know?”
“How would I know?” De la Gaspar growled. “Do I read minds? Maybe they arrived at the Mission Church after we left. They are the ones who arranged for this.” He patted the box. “To come here.”
“What shall we do Senor?”
“Stop them, I’ve waited a long time to get my hands on the treasure and nobody is going to stop me. Not even those Barkley’s. If killing them is what it takes then we’ll kill them.”
Evil glints appeared in the eyes of the Spanish and evil grins spread across mouths.
“Tonight amigos, tonight.”
“Sanchez, you, and Juan wait until here til dark then take care of them. Miguel won’t be that far behind them he can help. Pedros, Felipe, and Benito will come with me on toward San Juan Bautista,
“Well one good thing about that wrist.” Nick said as he lay out the provisions the brothers had brought with them. “I won’t be poisoned by your cooking.”
“There’s nothing wrong with my cooking.” Heath retorted.
“If you want to use it as weed killer.” And quickly ducked as a tin of something sailed no to far over his head. “Hey what the…?”
“I can do things other than hold the reins with my left hand.” Heath said as he aimed another tin in Nick’s direction. “Now you were saying something about my cooking?”
“Ok not weed killer.”
All hell then broke loose.
“Speaking of rats” Heath yelled as he ducked a knife swing.
Nick meantime had his hands full as well. Two of the intruders rushed at him. One was easily dealt with the second proved to be a better fighter then his companion. The two exchanged punches along with the occasional knife swipe.
Heath had just knocked his attacker out when Miguel showed up and proceeded to take over from his downed companion. With his right wrist out of action all Heath could do was block blows with his right forearm and counterpunch with his left and with each blow the right forearm blocked it was causing more and more pain to the wrist.
Spurred on by the pain Heath gave Miguel one very good left jab to the stomach followed by one to the jaw and Miguel was down for the count.
“Where are they all coming from?” Nick called as he ducked another blow.
“No idea.” Heath called back swinging out of the way of another punch. “But it looks like de la Gaspar knew we were here.”
“HEY YOU!” Nick yelled as he made a grab for Miguel who had risen to his feet and was making a quick get away.
Miguel eluded him and slipped into the darkness.
“We can still take these to the nearest town and sheriff.” Nick reached for the rope hanging from Coco’s saddle.
“He’ll most likely try again you know?”
“Yeah, but the next time we’ll be ready for him. We just have to keep our eyes and ears open. Two more days and we’ll be in the town near the mission.”
“And Gaspar can do anything in two days.” Heath said sombrely. “One thing this does prove, he’s really desperate to get his hands on whatever it is and is prepared to kill to get it.”
“From saloon talk I’ve head he’s a man who doesn’t like to lose” Nick said equally as sombrely.
“Fools, idiots” Fernando de la Gaspar raved after Miguel reported back that not only had the group failed to kill the Barkley brothers, but three of them had been caught and would soon be on their way to jail. “Can you do nothing right?”
“Pardon Senor.” Pedro interrupted.
“WHAT?” Gaspar turned on his right hand man.
“There is a place not far from Mission San Juan Bautista and well Senor.” Pedro outlined his scheme.
“I like it amigo we ride hard and set it up. Gaspar smiled an evil smile.
“Mission San Juan Bautista ” Nick announced as he and Heath rested their horses on the ridge above the town, which now surrounded the mission. In the distance they could see the mission buildings. “Another two to three hours and we’ll be there.”
“It doesn’t look all that far.” Heath protested.
“Road twists and turns, we have to go back on ourselves and through the pass below.” Nick indicated the way with his finger. “Chances are Gapar will be around here somewhere, he’s been too quiet in the last days.”
“How do you know that?” Heath queried.
“Been here before, with Father and Jarrod many years ago.” Nick remembered. “I was about eight and Jarrod twelve. Father planned for all of us to do this trip, following the Royal Highway from outside San Fransisco all the way down to Santa Barbara, stopping each night at a new mission. So anyway something happened and only Jarrod, Father and I ended up going.”
“So what happened to make Mother miss such a trip seeings how she’s big on history and all that kind of thing?”
“Audra happened” Nick laughed. “So after Audra was born Mother couldn’t really travel not with a baby and all. So she packed the three of us off and stayed home. Being eight I wasn’t really interested in the history and things but I did enjoy the riding, hunting and fishing side of it. Jarrod, of course, did enjoy the learning side of it” He slapped his leg as an idea came to him. “Boy, what’s say when this is over and that music box is safely back we, you, me, Jarrod, Audra and Mother, do the trip? We could hunt and fish, Mother and Audra can enjoy the scenery and the history.”
“Great I’d love to.” Heath agreed readily.
Seeing the expression on his younger brothers face Nick knew he’d made the right call. While telling of the trip with their father he’d seen the sadness in Heaths face. It had hurt. Although he knew that this trip would never make up for Heath missing out on the earlier one it would go part of the way.
“Have you ever been around here at all before?” Nick asked.
“No, went down once to Santa Barbara with some horses when I worked for Mark McAdams the horse breeder.”
“You worked for McAdams?” Nick was impressed. Mark McAdams was one of the top horses breeders in the state. “For how long?”
“Couple of months.” Heath remembered his time on the horse breeders ranch and of someone he’d left there. “One of the best people I’d ever worked for.”
“So why leave?” Nick was curious.
“It was seasonal work only. Ended up staying there longer than I should’ve anyway. And if things hadn’t have worked out like they did I could’ve gone back.”
Nick had met McAdams in the past and knew the kind of man he was. They were even in the smallest why friends. But even the feeling of friendship could not disguise the bitter taste that came into Nicks throat as Heath uttered those words. Just how close had Heath come to returning to McAdams’s spread?
“Any regrets?” He ventured cautiously “About staying with us I mean?”
“No” Heath stated firmly. “I found what I was looking for the most.” He smiled to his brother.
Nick noted the smile and something else. The smile didn’t quite reach Heaths eyes. His blue eyes spoke of something else was it sorry, a longing from something or pain? Nick couldn’t decide and was about to ask another question when the words spoken to him by his mother some little time ago came into his head.
“Leave him Nick.” Victoria had said after yet another of their spats. “When he’s ready he’ll tell us what’s brothering him.”
Deciding that a change of subject was in order.
“How’s the wrist?”
“Still a bit sore.” Heath looked down at the joint and rotated it experimentally.
“How about stopping for a minute and let me look at it?”
Knowing that Nick wouldn’t leave him alone until he’d checked the injured area Heath nodded and pulled Charger to a stop. Nick did the same with Coco.
From his lookout position above where the Barkley’s had stopped Luis, another of Gaspar’s men chuckled with delight. Unknowingly the brothers had stopped in just the right spot.
“Senor.” Pedros called to his boss as soon as he spotted the signal flag. “They are in position.”
“Do it.” Gaspar ordered.
Hands held out matches and lit fuses to sticks of dynamite placed in just the right locations to cause maximum destruction and rubble.
“Say goodbye to Senor Barkley and his brother.” Gaspar said as he and his men took cover.
“Happy Senor?” Pedro asked his boss as the pair left their hiding spot and brushed what dust had fallen onto their clothes.
“ Very Pedro, with the amount of rubble that fell on them neither of those pesky Barkley’s could’ve survived.” Gaspar clapped his number two and walked to the new edge of the ravine caused by his dynamite. “See.” He pointed to the dust and rocks, both large and small that now littered the ravine floor. “Buried for ever.”
“We had to the mission, to find the second half of my fathers message and hopefully the treasure. Money, Pedro, much money enough for me to buy twenty valleys.” Gold lust appeared in his eyes.
“And what of us Senor?” Pedro looked at the other Gaspar hands close by. They were all involved in this and could just as much as their boss end up with a noose around their necks for murder and robbery.
“You well be well rewarded my amigo.” Gaspar promised. “Let’s ride.”
“Can I help you my son?” The old padre asked as he opened the door to the entrance hall and gasped in amazement. Standing before him was a face from the past. A face the old padre hadn’t seen in over thirty years.
He had been only a young padre that night when the Spanish Lt had arrived at the mission. It was he who had warned the Lt of the approaching Mexicans and who had taken the letter with the promised to pass it on to the family of the Lt.
“I want you to tell me about the night that a certain Spanish Lt came here old man.” Gaspar ordered. I want you to show me where he was, what he did and above all where he went.”
The padre’s eyes shifted from looking at the intruders face to what was under his arm. He at once recognized the old wooden box that the young man was holding. It was he who had packed the box up safely for its journey to Stockton and the Mission Church there.
“Where did you get that?” He pointed to the box.
“Lets just say I borrowed it.” Gaspar said evilly “Now tell me old man what I want to know or I’ll destroy it here and now in front of your very eyes.” He placed the box on the ground close to the padre’s feet and drew his revolver and pointed it at the relic. “Come on old man decide the box, so scared to your mission or the information.”
Darkness gave way to light as consciousness slowly returned to Heath Barkley. It felt like the whole rock wall had fallen on him, and as he lifted his head to look about him it appeared that it had. Gingerly lifting his head he looked around for any sign of Nick, Coco or Charger. Off in the distance, or from his position, what appeared to be some distance, he could just make out the shapes of two horses. Coco and Charger were safe. But where was
“NICK?” He bellowed raising himself up on his elbows “NICK WHERE ARE YOU?”
Silence was the only reply he received.
As far as the eye could see there was nothing but dust, rubble and rock. Where was he to start looking?
“NICK, COME ON GIVE ME A SIGN BROTHER.” He called “JUST ONE LITTLE SIGN.”
Struggling to his feet he walked towards the direction he thought he’d last seen his brother, but the blast had changed the entire landscape, everything, but everything looked different. As he recalled Nick was no more than two feet away from him, but that was before the explosion.
Even walking on this new and different landscape was fraught with danger. How could he tell if he was stepping on some rock or boulder that covered Nick causing even more danger to his brother?
Just this once he wished he had some measure of control over the gift he had. That sense that he had that could warn his brother and one other if he was in danger. If only it was a two-way thing.
And then he felt it. Fingers lightly tapping his left shoulder turning he found nobody behind him.
“You’re dreaming Heath.” He mentally told himself. “Wishful thinking on your part.”
He was about to turn back and head toward Coco and Charger when he saw it. A black gloved hand amongst the dust and rocks. No two people he knew owned or wore gloves like that. That hand belonged to one person only.
Dropping to his knees he told the outstretched hand in his and held it. Watching and waiting, hoping that if his brother was still alive under all that Nick would at least squeeze the object that now gasped his hand.
“Come on show me your still with me squeeze my hand please?” Heath urged.
Nothing. The hand remained unmoving.
“Dammit Nick Barkley don’t you go and give up on me now.” He ordered as he began to throw and push chunks of rock aside. “Come on show me that stubborn streak you boasted about a few days ago.”
Ignoring his right wrist, which protested strongly at being abused in such a manner, he continued lifting and tossing aside the rubble and rocks.
Slowly the hand became a wrist followed by an arm and finally a shoulder.
To his relief coughing sounds began to emerge from the rocks.
“Heath?” Nick spluttered as more rock dust filled the small air pocket he was trapped in.
“Nick you hurt?” Heath called urgently “Anything broke?”
“Head hurts.” Nick lifted his free hand to his head. It came away with a small amount of blood on it. He tried to shift his legs, but met resistance. He could feel them, but surmised that a piece of rock had trapped them. “ Can’t seem to shift my legs. They must be caught under a piece of rock and something. Can feel them just can’t move them.”
“Ok big brother hold on.” Heath encouraged. “I can just about see your head.” He grunted as his wrist sang the song of pain again as he lifted the last rock that separated Nicks head and face from daylight and fresh breathable air.
Nicks lungs drank in the fresh air. It felt so good to be able to breath clean, non-dusty air again.
With both of his arms free and able to move Nick was able to help Heath move the large piece of cliff wall that trapped his body. That just left his legs trapped.
“Look go and get Coco and Charger. “He all but ordered. “This’ll be a lot easier if you have them to help you.”
“Don’t need them.” Heath counted with “Almost done.”
“I heard that grunt of pain. Your wrists’ protesting isn’t it? Don’t be a stubborn fool get them.”
“Forget it Nick. I’m not leaving you here like this.” Heath eyed his brother. “Remember back at Gaspar’s the talk about orders and it cutting both ways?” He waited until Nick gave the smallest of nods. “Well this is the cut. And you’re about to find out just how stubborn I can be.”
“Heath for once swallow that damn pride of yours and go and get those horses.” Nick ordered, afraid that pulling this little stunt off would only damage his younger brother more. “I won’t have you damaging that wrist of yours any more on my account. NOW GO!”
“Almost there.” Heath grunted as he lifted the last stone that formed the prison Nick was trapped in.”So that’s the problem.”
“What?” Nick strained to see.
“Fallen tree trunk wedged your ankles in tight”
“That’s why I can feel em but not move em?”
“Right Big Brother.” Heath walked around the fallen tree looking for the best way to get it off Nick. “Hang on just a bit longer will you? I think I can see how to move it.”
“HEATH for crying out loud get the horses man.” Nick bellowed.
“Just one more minute and I’ll be done.” Heath grunted as his wrist again screamed at the abuse it was receiving.” Now when I say go pull yourself clear ok?”
Using all his strength Heath managed to lift the fallen trunk just enough for Nick to pull himself clear.
“CLEAR!” He called as watched as his younger brother let the trunk fall back into place with a sigh of relief.
“Ok?” Heath knelt by Nick’s side and began to probe Nick’s ankles. “Any breaks?”
“No.” Nick rotated his ankles experimentally and was relieved to feel no pain. A quick examination revealed only minor bruising.
“You’re dammed lucky you know that?” Heath to was revealed that his brother had escaped with only minor bruising.
“Luck,” Nick said, “protects fools, little children and cowboys named Barkley.”
How true that saying was Heath pondered. Just how close had Nick come to being crushed? He didn’t know and never wanted to find out.
“Heath.” Nick looked at his younger brother. “Thanks.”
“What are brothers for if not to help one another?” Heath smiled and by instinct grabbed Nick’s out stretched hand. Only to have his wrist protest again.
“Now just how much more damage did you do to that wrist with that stunt?”
It was nearly nightfall by the time the tired cowboys reached the gates of the Mission San Juan Bautista. The buildings and courtyard were in total darkness.
“Strange.” Nick commented as he studied the darkened buildings “There’s usually a light on to welcome and guide visitors.”
“Could it have gone out?” Heath pondered.
“Possibly, but the padre on night vigil would’ve noticed and re lit it.” The hairs on the back of his neck rose suddenly. “HEATH DOWN!”
In the darkness a shot rang out.
Quickly taking cover behind one of the stone columns that marked the entrance to the Mission Nick stole a glance toward his brother. Heath had take refuge behind the second column and had his gun drawn waiting for a target to present itself.
From his hiding spot he noticed what appeared to be an unmanned open window. Thinking quickly he decided to take a chance and head for it thereby getting in behind the shooter and disarming him.
Getting Heaths attention he signalled his intent and received an acknowledgement. All he could do was hope that his occasionally headstrong little brother didn’t get the idea to charge the front door and get himself killed.
What was really strange was that there hadn’t been any more shots. Strange that someone would bother to draw attention to themselves and then fire not another shot.
“I’m going in.” He called.
“Be careful.” Was Heath’s response.
Nodding he made his way to the window and looked in. By the door he spotted a figure trying desperately to reload what looked like an old rifle.
“Ok drop it. He ordered as he swung through the opening, gun in hand.
Before him was what could only be described as a young padre trying to reload a rifle that looked like it hadn’t been fired since the last war between Mexico and Spain some thirty odd years ago.
Startled the young padre dropped the antique piece and began to babble in Spanish. Although he had a good grasp of the Spanish language Nick couldn’t make out a word the young priest was saying.
Re holstering his gun he tried his best to calm the young priest down. But the young man just keep on babbling. Only stopping when Heath appeared at the door.
“Nick?” Heaths concerned voice broke into the babble.
“I’m fine, and could really use your help here.” Nick said leading Heath to the priest “He’s babbling something about men, black, guns and murder, other than that I can’t make it out. He’s speaking too damn fast for my Spanish to cope with.”
For the next twenty minutes Nick sat watched and listened as Heath first calmed the young priest down and finally managed to get whatever the problem was out of him.
When they’d finished the young priest got up handed Nick the old firing piece, nodded to them both and wearily shuffled out of the door and down the hall.
“Gaspar was here tonight Nick, looking for more clues as to where his father hid the Spanish treasure.” Heath paused and bowed his head. “And Nick in front of that kid, he killed the old padre”
“HE DID WHAT?” Nick bellowed not believing what he’d just heard. “Why?”
“Seems the old one wouldn’t give over on the information he was looking for.” Heath paused for breath. “Or at least not quickly enough of his liking. From what the kid heard, Gaspar’s old man hid a note in that music box stating he’d hidden the treasure near one of the lakes around Los Banos. The first note said there’d be another note somewhere in this Mission. Well when the old padre, who’d been here by the way at the same time as Gaspar senior, didn’t give him the information quickly enough and started to question how the music box happened to be in his position Gaspar threatened to destroy it. He took aim at the box and began to fire around it hoping it would scare the old padre into revealing the secret. The old one did eventually tell him what he wanted to know, not out of fear for himself but for the relic.”
“And Gaspar killed him anyway?”
“Yeah. That’s why the kid was shooting at us he thought we were Gaspar and his crew coming back. Nick old man Gaspar buried the treasure near a lake called Lake del la Luna.”
“Lake of the Moon “Nick translated. His Spanish was at least up to that. “But that area’s full of lakes and springs. It could be anyone of six or seven.”
“The kids gone to hunt down one of Padre Felipe’s old journals. It could possible contain information on a short cut to the lake.”
“Anything that’ll get us there faster.” Nick said as he started to pace the room. “I’m just itching to get my hands on him for this.”
They were whispering again, he could hear them. Plotting now doubt about how they’d get rid of him and steal the treasure for themselves. Like that would ever happen. It was his, his father had been charged with protecting it, getting to a place of safety where the Mexicans would never find it and now he intended to put it to good use. That priest had tried to stop him and paid the price. Those Barkley’s too had tried to interfere and had failed. Nobody could stop him. He was invincible.
Why did he ever think he could trust the rabble he had brought along with him? Even Pedros, his trusted right hand now plotted with the others to kill him and steal the gold for himself.
Well he’d just play along with them for now. Let them think everything was going as planned. They’d see their much sort after prize oh yes they’d see it alright and just before they’d could get their grubby little hands on it they’d get the payment they’d been waiting for.
The gold was his and nobody was going to take it away from him.
“Some shortcut.” Nick complained as he and Heath made their way across the uneven and rocky ground. This terrain wasn’t doing much for the condition of either Coco or Chargers legs and hooves. “Maybe we’ should’ve stayed on the main track.”
“The price we pay for getting there…” Heath countered with and then stopped abruptly as Charger pulled up and snorted. “First.”
“Stone in the hoof.” Heath replied as he dismounted and lifted Chargers front right leg “Steady boy.” He soothed. “Steady.”
Normally Charger was a good animal to work with. Patient and quiet, but today because of the track and the fact that it was causing him pain Charger was proving to be a hand full. Heath too was in pain, his right wrist was still a little on the sore side and Chargers antics were not helping.
The stone in question, only a little thing as far as he could see., was wedged in a sensitive spot and no amount of prodding would loosen it.
The last effort sent Heath to the ground clutching at his wrist and swearing a blue streak.
“Here let me help.” Nick was off Coco and holding out a hand to his brother.
Heath eyed the hand and Charger.
It almost went against his nature, he was so used to doing things on his own and in his own way.
“Okay.” He accepted the offered hand.
“Tell you what we’ll get that stone out then how about we make camp. Coco and Charger need a break and I can look at that wrist.”
Between the two Barkley boys that one little stone didn’t stand much of a chance and was out in no time.
Heath got the fire going while Nick set about catching some supper. Soon two rabbits were roasting over the open fire. In between turning the rabbits Nick once again applied the Chinese liniment and a fresh bandage to Heath’s wrist.
“The bruise is coming out at least.” Nick reported cheerfully. “You’ve gone from a lovely shade of blue and purple to a more sickly shade of yellow and green.”
“And that’s a good thing?”
“Once that colour mix goes then it’ll be completely healed.” Nick got up to turn the rabbits, giving Heaths wrist a squeeze on the way.
“Didn’t hurt as much did it?”
“No now that you mention it.”
Nick was on the verge of handing Heath’s rabbit over to him when a body came crashing out of the under brush and landed at his feet.
“Pedros!” Nick exclaimed as the wounded and dying former right hand man of Gaspar crashed at his feet. “What the devil?”
“Devil is right Senor.” Pedros gasped.”He’s…. mad. Senor Gaspar, he shoots all .. He thinks we plan…. To…. steal his gold. He raves on…. how it’s his and nobody…. take it away from him.”
“Gold fever.” Heath looked up at Nick from the position he’d taken near Pedros side.
“Mixed with what our brother would call paranoia.”
“And them some.” Nick confirmed.
“Where is Gaspar now?”
“I don’t know Senor Barkley I get….. turned around, ….wanted to get away. I didn’t … know this… your camp till I arrive, just spotted the smoke …. came.”
“How close was he to Los Banos when you left him?” Nick pressed on. Pedros was dying neither he nor Heath could stop that, but Nick sure wasn’t going to let him take vital information with him to the grave.
“Day …day and a half…maybe..”
“And us?” Nick know looked at his brother
“Should be there by lunchtime tomorrow.” Heath did some quick math. “Give us about half a day to locate the treasure it we can.”
“We will” Nick said confidently.
“Lake de la Luna.” Heath announced as he and Nick stopped their horses on a ridge above the lake.
From where they had stopped the outline of the lake below, such as it was, did indeed look like a half moon, a rather moth eaten half moon but a half moon none the less and with what appeared to be the same amount of shore line as any other lake.
“This would be easier if we had the same instructions as Gaspar .” Heath noted.
“Well we haven’t.” Nick bit back. “We’ll split up, you go that way,” He pointed to the north. “I’ll go this, meet you on the other side of the moon. If you see anything out of place yell and I’ll do the same.”
“See you on the dark side of the moon and if everything’s ready I’ll play the five tones.”
“What?” Nick growled.
“Nothing.” Heath quickly shook his head. “Just something I heard once.”
Nick headed off shaking his own head. Sometimes he really didn’t understand this new brother of his.
“Something out place, something out of place.” Heath muttered as he scoured every nook and cranny in his allotted search area.
So far everything looked in place, nothing unusual grabbed his attention. Until he spotted it.
At the other end of the moon Nick had come up empty. All around him was just dirt and more dirt, not even a tiny rock changed the aspect of the waters edge. He had just kicked another sod of earth in frustration when the signal shot sounded.
“Out of place enough?” Heath asked and pointed to the mark on the rock as Nick stood beside him
Weathered by forty years of sun and wind but never the less still visible was the crudely carved etching of the symbol of the Alvarado family.
“Let’s hope old man Gaspar didn’t bury it too deep.” Nick grunted as he and Heath pushed the rock aside and began to dig with their bare hands.
In the end the boys were indeed thankful that Gaspar senior didn’t have the time to bury the chest and it’s contents that deeply.
“We’ve found it now what?” Heath asked as he and Nick looked down on the collection of gold coins, gold cups and plates and a magnificent gold sword with a jewel-encrusted hilt.
“We take as much as we can out, fill the chest with rocks and rebury it.” Nick outlined the plan he had in mind. “That’ll keep old Gaspar distracted while you grab the music box.”
“And meantime you’ll be…?”
“Keeping him amused if the treasure fails to do so.” Nick finished. “Make sure you hide this.” He tossed Heath the sword. “The last thing we need is for him to be waving that around and yelling something about there can be only one worthy of claiming the prize.”
It was Heaths turn to shake his head and wonder about his brother.
Finally! Lake Del la Luna.
But for a mind driven by greed and gold fever there was little time for taking in the natural beauty of the place. The gold and treasure was so close he could almost smell them. Soon none in the valley, hell in all of California, would be able to match his wealth.
Plans, he had so many plans, first he’d buy up the land from all those who had scorned him, then he’d buy up those banks who, one by one, had refused him loans so that he could make improvements to his land. Well he’d become their boss and fire the lot of them and laugh as they tried to make a go of it with virtually nothing.
As for those traitorous ex employees of his, thinking that they could plot behind his back, steal what rightfully belonged to him. Well they got what they deserved. He’d told them that they’d get what was coming to them and they did. Even his loyal and most trusted right hand Pedros had turned against him.
‘Let the sign of the Alvarado’s guide you.’ The note from his father had said. Below the words, a drawing.
One last lousy cryptic clue. That was all that stood between him and a fortune.
Putting the music box down near the water’s edge he began to survey the area.
“FATHER WHAT SIGN?” Gaspar yelled to the empty space. “Where?”
Racing from one rock to another. His curses in Spanish got louder and louder as his frustrations grew.
Then he spotted it. Right under his nose the sign of the Alvarado’s.
Hysterical laughter rang out as Gaspar lifted the marked rock and began to scoop the sandy dirt away. HE HAD FOUND IT.
Lifting the box out of its hole he opened it and began to plunge his hands into the treasure. Coins filtered through his fingers and tumbled back in to the box, again and again he plunged his hands in deeper and deeper until he hit.
“ROCKS.” Again he swore out loud in Spanish. He’d been beaten to his prize.
“Now.” Nick whispered to Heath as the brothers watched Gaspar’s fury.
With one eye on the precious music box and the other squarely on Gaspar, Heath made his way to where the enraged Spaniard had placed the box.
“You!” Gaspar cursed as from the corner of his eye he caught Heath moving toward the box. “Come to steal my gold you half Barkley, well my own men couldn’t get their hands on it, and neither will you.” From the waistband of his pants he pulled his revolver.
“HEATH DOWN.” Nick yelled as he made his move, hoping it would be enough to draw Gaspars attention onto him and away from Heath.
The revolver discharged as he flung himself onto Gaspar knocking him to the ground. Rolling around in the dirty the two men exchanged blows.
Even though the two of them were equally matched in the height and weight departments the fight was very brief. Nick had just too much experience for Gaspar, and before he knew what was going on de la Gaspar found himself unconscious, face down in the dirt.
“HEATH?” Nick called as he searched the area for any sign of his brother. He had lost sight of Heath as the fight started and now, unable to find his younger brother, was growing concerned.
“Right here Nick.” A soaking wet Heath answered as he pulled himself out of the lake. The precious music box still tucked firmly under his arm. “I’m fine, just wet.”
Smiling with relief Nick clapped his brother on the shoulder.
Well done boy, well done.”
“They assured me they be here.” Victoria told Padre Julio as the pair stood on the steps of the Mission Church. “And Nick and Heath never go back on their word.”
“Mrs Barkley. Just to receive word that they managed to get Padre Felipe’s music box back was enough. Waiting a further five minutes is not a huge price to pay. Anyway here they come now.”
It was three days since the fight on the lakes edge.
Gaspar had been handed over to the sheriff in Los Banos, Jarrod and the curator of the San Fransisco Museum had been wired and had collected the treasure and now all that was left to be done was hand the music box back to the Mission Church.
“Mother.” Both the boys kissed Victoria.
“Here go Padre.” Heath handed over the box. “One music box, in the same condition as it was the last time you saw it.”
“My sons.” Padre Julio clutched the relic “What can I say except thank you. I asked for a miracle and I got one.” Having said that he placed the box on a near by bench and cranked the little handle.
From within the body of the box the little tune sounded out.
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