“Alicia, tell me what happened last night.” The padre spoke with urgency. He had heard about the intruders and knew there was gold stored somewhere at Rancho Refugio. “We must secure your shells.” He introduced a stout fellow in a grey topcoat. “May I present our banker for all the town’s valuables?” This was his attempt to safeguard the family fortune.
“Ladies, at your service. I’ve always admired your papa, but our paths never crossed,” the banker said. “We treat all the affairs of our customers with the greatest discretion.”
“Perhaps another time, señor.” Clara stepped outside. Manuel waited near the bookkeeper’s office. Romo boarded a wagon that waited behind Manuel’s carriage. The banker boarded a third wagon behind that. “We must return, Private Valdez. I hope they are not planning to follow us.” A parade of carriages headed to the rancho.
When the wagons arrived at the hacienda, the girls saw the front door standing wide open. Workers hauled enormous trunks into the residence. An old man and woman sat fanning their faces. Maria’s children played in the yard, and Lupita stood in the shade caressing a little bundle.
“Stop here. What’s going on?” Clara looked for signs of strangers or danger. Everyone was familiar. They acted content and happy. “Is this why they followed us? Some sort of
“What do you know about this, Manuel?” Alicia said. Manuel did not respond.
“Your parents are home at last, ladies!” Padre Romo jumped from his seat and hurried toward the house.
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