¿Quién es? (An Alternate History)

“Hola’,” the aging lawman said, touching the brim of his cowboy hat, as he drove by. He didn’t recognized the Mexican woman, nor should he have as the last time he’d seen her was nearly three-decades before in the dark of night and not in the bright of the day.

She slowly turned in her saddle, looking back at the single-horse surrey and the tall lanky man exiting the rig. She watched as he turned his back to her and began to urinate along the side of the cattle trail.

It would be his last act of life as two shots, rapidly fired in succession, echoed across the open expanse of New Mexican desert near the village of Las Cruces. Having seen the man topple face down into the puddle of his own piss, the Mexican woman turned back, spurring her horse on to a quicker pace, riding from sight.

By the time the general alarm sounded and a posse formed, the Mexican woman had found her way back into town and quietly sat in the rear passenger car of the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad bound northeast towards home. It would be the last time she would visit Las Cruces.

Though Paulita Jaramillo didn’t follow the events as reported in the ‘Fort Sumner Review,’ she did hear from friends and relatives of how someone had murdered Pat Garrett in broad daylight. She listened with rapt attention to every detail, knowing that the Gringo lawmen were literally searching for the wrong man.

They’d forgotten the woman, once a 16-year-old girl with the last name of Maxwell, raised on a ranch in Mora, New Mexico and later the wife of a prosperous sheep rancher, who knew all to well how to shoot a Winchester, killing vermin that threatened the herd. She also swore revenge the morning after her brother Pedro’s ranch was used as a killing ground, the place where William Bonney lost his life.

“Dormir bien mi querido Billy,” Paulita often said while thinking back on her unknown deed and a promise kept.

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