"Hey, there's gas in this one!" Shelly yelled and jumped up and down. The setting sun cast long shadows on the buildings.
Within a few minutes, Shelly and Maddie transferred the gasoline from the abandoned car to their gas can and trotted back to their truck with five gallons of gas.
"It smells okay." Maddie poured it into their old vehicle. "It's not like we have a lot of choice."
"We should have gotten our full gas cans back when we left New Pueblo." The anger seethed beneath the surface of Shelly's voice.
Nancy shrugged her shoulders. "We weren't thinking too clearly at the time, and you weren't thinking at all."
The old man sat in the front seat of their truck. He looked at Maddie as the women put the now empty gas can into the truck bed. "So, Maddie. Now what? You kill me?" His lined face showed an ancient weariness.
Maddie shot him a sharp look, but saw he was serious. "No, Señor Luis." She looked around the area where the stalled truck sat. Shelly was wiping her hands on a sparse patch of grass by the cracked sidewalk.
"I hate the smell of gas on my hands," Shelly said as she stood up. She looked at the old man. "Really? You think we'd kill you?"
Luis looked from Maddie to Shelly and shook his head. "No, ladies, I think not." He pointed at Nancy, sitting on the truck seat behind him, the pistol in her hands, her eyes bright. "But she might."
"She wouldn't," Maddie said.
"She shot my son." A look of anger crossed the old man's face.
Nancy snorted. "I shot him in the leg. He'll be better in a few days. I could have shot him through the head. That would be a lot harder to walk off, wouldn't it?" She grinned wickedly. "I could have shot him in softer places." She quit looking at Luis and mumbled, mostly to herself. "I should have, too."
Shelly got behind the wheel and turned the key. The engine cranked and died. When she turned it the next time, sooty black smoke belched from the tailpipe, smelling of oil and gasoline. The engine sputtered then evened out, the smelly black soot turning an acceptable ash color.
Maddie crossed her arms over her chest and looked at Luis. "We're ten miles from the front gates of New Pueblo. Do you think Tomás sent anyone after us?" She stared into the old man's eyes.
He looked back at her, a deep hurt in his eyes. "No, Señora, I do not. He would not risk injury to me. He loves me. He loves my grandchildren. In this world, that is much for a man to do."
Maddie stared at him for a moment, her gaze softening. "Well, old man, that's always been a true statement, in this world, in the last one or in the one we're trying to build. Kidnapping a woman to be the mother of your personal race of rulers is a bit over the top, though."
Luis dropped his eyes and stared at the ground. "That…is true, Maddie. I am sorry for that behavior of my son."
Maddie nodded at Nancy, who holstered her weapon. She looked at the old man. "Go home, Señor Luis. Tell Tomás to leave us alone and we'll not bother with him." Luis moved away from the truck, watching Nancy from the corner of his eye.
Nancy grinned at him. "I like you, Viejo. I would have been sad to shoot you. Not so much your son, though." She spat on the ground. "He's goin' to cause you some major grief, I'm thinkin'." She sat further back onto the seat of the truck and closed her eyes. "Even evil men love the people who love them," she whispered.
Maddie climbed into the passenger side of the truck and addressed Shelly. "It's getting dark. We need to find the others and head back." Shelly turned on the truck headlights, dim beams of yellow shining on the road ahead of them. Before closing the truck door Maddie looked at Luis. "One more question, Señor Luis. I enjoyed meeting your grandchildren, but what happened to their mothers?"
Sadness crossed his face and he waved his hand in dismissal. "They wanted nothing to do with the children. I loved them like my own daughters, and they disappeared, every one of them." Tears glistened in his eyes. He muttered another word, but Maddie didn't hear it. She slammed the truck door closed as Shelly drove away.
The old man watched the truck drive away in a cloud of grey exhaust and then turned toward New Pueblo. He looked at the ground as he walked, his feet shuffling along the cracked and broken sidewalk.