Sal guessed Brother David didn’t share all that he had to say. After many months in camp, the truth came out.
“I lied when you first came to camp, Sal. Now I must confess,” Brother David said. “I told you Father Serra left to start a new Mission. The truth is, our Brothers in the north are starving: The King cut off our supplies. Even worse, Father Serra has taken ill.
I hate to admit it, but we are stranded here in Alta California. We need a miracle.” Their little hunting party followed Paciano, a strong leader and trailblazer among the men. They collected food to replace what they gave the pirates in exchange for Sal’s life. “Those Spanish cargo boxes you planned to steal were our last supplies.” He rolled wooden rosary beads between his fingers.
“You’re not worried, are you? I once saw how Father Serra got additional Mission supplies in México. He’s fearless. If anyone can make it happen, he can,” Sal said. No wonder Blas’s ghost urged him to help Brother David. Damn, why didn’t he return to the pirates when he had a chance?
“Sal, the King ordered troops out of Alta California by the end of the year—the missionaries too. Spain suffers with other wars, Lord save us,” Brother David said. He wiped the sweat off his brow and made the sign of the cross on his forehead.
Sal kept a wary eye on the muscular man leading all the others. Could they trust him? He remembered another strong native, Joseph, who murdered Blas and Brother Jayme in San Diego. Sal would not let that happen again.
The dark woman, the most beautiful female in the camp, walked close behind Paciano. She walked with those same two young boys, the froggers, at her side. He longed to know more about her.
Brother David walked slowly, dragging his feet. He followed Sal and saw what caught his attention. “I can see she intrigues you. She is Paciano’s wife, Salina,” Brother David said. When she is baptized, I will call her Mary, because she is most faithful to her husband. She and her family are a few of the remaining Salinan band.” He reached for Sal’s arm to slow him down and pointed toward Paciano. “You ought to be paying attention to where we are headed. Paciano is an expert guide and hunter. He moves his clan to a new campsite every season.”
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