The coyote betrays them.

The sun climbed ever higher overhead and blasted the tiny party of stragglers as the morning progressed toward midday, and the two boulders provided little shade.  Cuauhtémoc opened one eye and watched the older couple through his lashes.  They sat just beyond Cuauhtémoc's boots, but in direct sun; the man's head sagged as its rays beat down on them.  Cuauhtémoc grimaced as he pulled himself away from the relative cool of the rocks at his back, then scooted over to offer the couple his spot.

The man opened his mouth to decline but survival beat out pride and instead he simply nodded thanks and joined the woman at Cuauhtémoc's spot in the partial shade.

His neck's sudden exposure to the blazing sun soured Cuauhtémoc's mood, and, feeling his opportunity for rest has passed anyway, he sidled next to the snoozing Coyote.  The old man's chin rested on his chest and his Stetson was pulled low over his eyes, as if sleeping, but Cuauhtémoc figured this was a man who never slept so he leaned over the man and whispered into one large and weathered ear, "Senor."

"What," was the sharp reply.  The Coyote was obviously not one for conversation.

Cuauhtémoc lowered his voice a little more, "I am worried about that old couple and the woman with the little boy."

The never lifted his hat.  He only grunted, "Don't be.  I've done this countless times before.  Many people make it across.  Just do what I tell you."

Cuauhtémoc thought about that; the old man did not say EVERYBODY made it across, he said MANY people.  Nor did he say SAFELY... or alive.

"Oh, I don't doubt your abilities to guide us, old timer, you misunderstand.  What I mean is I worry about the very old and the very young.  I fear they may not survive."

"Hmm.  They won't."


"This journey is very dangerous, and it is very likely to claim the lives of some of us -- some of you.  You are young and strong, you will probably make it.  Forget about them.  Don't let the weaker ones hold you back."

Anger boiled in Cuauhtémoc's blood.  He clenched his teeth and asked, "What allows you to live with yourself knowing you're leading these people to their deaths after taking all their money?"

The Coyote lifted his hat brim to his forehead and gave Cuauhtémoc a sideways glance, "The question you should be asking, culero, is what allows them to give me all their money and think they'll survive a harsh journey through a booby-trapped desert.  There are no guarantees, pajiera.  Now, rest because we've got a big night ahead of us."

As much as the Coyote's words stung, Cuauhtémoc found it impossible to argue the semantics, so he found an empty place among the rocks where he could hide.  There was no protection from the sun but at least it offered two tons of garnet to shield him from the auto cannons on the wall.  He settled in and dropped his hat brim below his eyes, folded his arms a his chest, and waited to see what would happen.

He didn't wait long.

The End

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