“Mizumaru, no!” the woman screams.
“Men, take him down,” Zapata commands.
“Papi!” the girl with the golden eyes screams.
I watch the scene unfold as if I am many legs away, but it is right in front of me. I watch a man furious enough to silence the whispers of death in his ear. His hand is shaky as he clutches the sword, which I later learn is of the Yapones style, called katana. Zapata’s men encircle them and close in. My heart races. I want to say something, anything, but I am without voice. But the voice of another supplements my own.
Everyone stops as even the echoes ring in their ears. A booming call coming from seemingly everywhere.
“Who? What?” Zapata asks. I look for the source of the voice and find Silvio. He walks in from the alley, baubles jingling, leaning on a great gnarled wooden club that he used as a walking stick sometimes.
“Ain’t it a bit early for bloodshed? I’m sure Muerta would rather keep sleeping like the rest of us,” says Silvio.
“What does a basurero care? Go back to the trash and filth where you belong,” Zapata says. The men with weapons begin to laugh. Some of the people in the crowd around me laugh as well. Silvio dips his head in what looks like shame. Something in me snaps.
“Hey! Leave him alone!” I yell. All eyes are on me. “He- he just doesn’t want anyone to get hurt. That’s not a bad thing.”
“You too? Do you all thirst for pain?” Zapata asks.
“Leave the kid out of it,” Silvio says.
“I will not abide back talk from a basurero and- what are you, kid? A nomad? Anyway, I am happy to remind you all what your place is, starting with you, Midori,” Zapata says. The innkeeper keeps his blade overhead, waiting for the inevitable.
“Manuel Ecardo Gusto Yamikaze Zapata!” Silvio shouts, his voice booming as if coming from a horn. “The one that needs reminding is you. Have you forgotten what your father taught you?” Silvio asks. All eyes are on him again. “I see the years have done nothing to change the upstart pup you used to be. What good will come from bullying these poor people into giving you what you want? Your father would be ashamed, rest his soul. If he could see you now, he would disown you good and proper like he should have done a long time ago.”
Zapata turns a color of red I’ve never seen a person turn before.
“You. You! You dare? How would you- you know nothing of what you speak, trash monger!” Zapata snaps. He motions for some of his men to get Silvio. They move to surround the basurero.
“This is all you have? Leg biters and knee breakers that can barely call themselves men? I see you’ve wasted your money as well as your reputation,” Silvio says. This sends Zapata’s men off. They charge Silvio, pipes waving and chains swinging. I watch, wide eyed, convinced I am about to witness the death of the man I’d spent the last two months with. But something else happens.
There is a flash of movement, a whip of the wind, and two of Zapata’s men are down. The rest stop. Silvio is standing funny, legs spread apart, holding his club like I’ve never seen him hold it before.
“What are you idiots doing?” Zapata asks.
“I’ll give you boys one chance to walk away. One chance. After that, your lives are mine,” Silvio says. Two of the younger ones turn tail and run. No one else moves.
“Don Gregorio and the Empire demand that you kill this man!” Zapata shouts.
A man lunges toward Silvio swinging a metal pipe with a head of nails. Silvio deflects the pipe with his club and knocks the man out with a swift hit to the temple with seemingly little effort. Another runs around to get him from the side with his chain, but Silvio is like water and nothing touches him as he weaves between Zapata’s men breaking knees, cracking wrists, loosing teeth, and flinging around what looked a second ago like a mob of tough street fighters. Everyone watches in awe as Silvio lays his foes to waste.
Suddenly I feel as if I am no longer in my body, but instead watching from above, as if I had gotten caught in that moment between awareness and sleep. I am watching Silvio do the impossible; fighting like a hero from Sear Rodrigo’s stories; a black wind knocking men down like rice straw in a storm.
“Aye, forget the basurero! I want Midori and his family dead!” Zapata yells.
The men who are left focus their attention back on the innkeeper. He attacks with a precise fury. His is a well practiced swing, but he does not move like Silvio. Zapata’s men hit him again and again. I see the girl holding on to her mother tightly. I want to run in and help. I want to do something but my feet are like bricks. Suddenly the innkeeper is cut down by one of Zapata’s men, but not before he returns the favor. This distracts Silvio, just enough for a man with a saw blade, that is a sword with saw teeth, to strike him. It sinks deep into the basurero’s shoulder. Without thinking I grab a stone off the ground and hurl it at the attacker’s head. It grazes the top of his scalp and he swings round to look at me. For the first time in my life I see the eyes of someone that wants to kill me.
But in that one moment of distraction, Silvio grabs a pair of rusty scissors from his waist bag and stabs it into my attacker’s side.
“Sorry. Didn’t mean to cut you off,” he says as the lad drops dead.
“Silvio!” I shout as another goon comes from behind. He tackles Silvio, and Silvio puts the goon in a headlock.
The woman and the girl with the golden eyes weep over the innkeeper’s body. In Rodrigo’s stories, this would be the moment when the dying have one last thing to say before they pass. But there is nothing in the bleeding man’s eyes. He is already gone. Zapata, seeing his forces defeated or fleeing, finally loses his patience. He kicks his horse toward the grieving women. I run to intercept.
“That’s enough!” I say. He stops abruptly. I instantly regret my actions.