When Nina’s voice came to her, her expression changed from timid to daring. She showed no shame or surprise at being found.
“This trapper, he knows all herbs, good like Grandma Masagawa.” Nina looked from the trapper to Clara.
“I am a sergeant and surveyor, Miss. You have this wrong.” When the trapper spoke, Alicia realized he was not the ignorant ruffian she’d assumed.
“Don’t say another word. You are trespassing on our family property.” Clara strode toward him, swishing her arms as if she was shooing chickens. “Get away from here.”
“We just needed a protected place,” the trapper said.
“Only because you set fire to the Mission.” Clara did not back down. This stranger tried to talk his way out of his crime.
“I am not responsible for that fire. I was there, counting hides, but I didn’t start the fire.” The trapper was now face-to-face with Clara. Alicia saw her sister fighting for control. The tall stranger could not intimidate her.
“He no set fire,” Nina said. “My brothers, drunk and loco.”
“Just sit down right where you are. Tell me your story.” Clara exhaled her exasperation. She eyed Nina and the trapper then shifted her glance to the cave.
“Trapper make pictures with numbers. Like Captain Harris.” Nina bragged about the trapper. When she spoke up in his defense, Alicia felt a twinge of jealousy to notice the admiration on her friend’s face.
“Don’t talk about Captain Harris. It’s maps he makes, you stupid girl.” Clara did not realize Nina observed them from afar. Alicia knew she referred to Harris plotting their land.
“Survey maps. That is my job.” The trapper faced Clara. Nina sat behind him. “For instance, what are you collecting with those buckets, crabs?” His natural curiosity unsettled Clara and Alicia. “I’m making a survey: land, plants, animals. Part of the Western exploration. It’s my job.”
“Be honest with me, mister, did you take anything from this cave?” There was something enraging Clara, the closer she came to that cave.
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