Sep. 26th, 2011

I ride into Cristobal, and everybody stares. It's just a little town, with a scattering of clap-board houses and dull, weather-beaten locals leaning against railings with nothing to do. We're deep in the Territories here, and there isn't much traffic out this way. I doubt they see very many caminomancers out this way.

But of course they're not looking at me; they're all ogling Elm. You don't see a fine, high-class street like Elm out in the Territories. Streets out here are made of dirt (or mud, if it rains), possibly paved with irregular bricks, all lumpy and full of pot-holes. They're not good for much but draft work, hauling hay and beans on their broad backs. But Elm is a beauty, even by big city standards; she's fifty yards of shimmering black asphalt, with a perfect yellow double-stripe down the middle. She's spirited, and she shimmies as she slithers into town, soaking up the attention. I've had more than one road-rancher ask to put her up for stud with one of their mangy avenues, based just on her stylish looks.

I have business in Cristobal. In the center of the town is an intersection. Streets don't eat, but they need social interaction to thrive, so I allow Elm to join up with the other three streets that merge there. As my street nuzzles up with the others, the signpost sprouts another sign with Elm's name on it. I hop off her back, spurs jingling, and walk into the Jerife's office.

"I'm looking for rustlers," I say. "Some callejeros came this way within the week with a herd of alleys and byways. Have you seen them?" The sherriff and his deputies just look at me. They've seen the thieves; they probably know the thieves. I can see it in their eyes. But they won't talk. They're scared. I don't blame them. Abraxa is a dangerous criminal, doubly so when desperate. He would massacre an entire town without a second thought.

I leave the office. A girl tugs at my duster. "I seen them, senor," she whispers. "They rode through town firing guns, with many fine streets racing before them, like a stampede of snakes."

I nod. I spin a silver peso on my knuckles, then flip it to the girl. "Which way did they go?" I ask.

"Across the pampa," she says, pointing. "North."

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September 2012

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