The doctor didn’t want me going out in the snow to see Flecha, but I reminded him of our deal and went outside anyway. When I came in, he and Marisa were sitting in front of the fire drinking coffee. I sat down with them, answered the doctor’s questions about my health, and then we started talking about the Cobre plot as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
Dr. Ruston is willing to take a message from me to Robert, and I think it would be best. If he’s on my horse, with a letter in my handwriting, Robert will know it’s real. The problem is where and when to intercept him. Marisa had a map and we spent some time looking it over. Cobre isn’t very far but it’s in rough mining country. Since we don’t know who we can trust, it could be dangerous for John to go alone.
“How are you with a gun?” I asked.
“I have military training and keep my skills up hunting deer.”
I turned to Marisa. “What about you?” When she shook her head, I asked, “Do you have friends who can ride and shoot? Or track, or anything?”
“Not friends I’d trust on something like this.”
“I guess we’ll just have to find another horse, and I’ll go.”
They objected, of course. They said I was too sick, I might relapse, the weather was going to get worse, and it just couldn’t be done.
“Well, you need some sort of guard and guide out there,” I said. “Someone needs to cover for you, if you run into any trouble.”
“I’ll go,” Marisa said. “I’ve got good eyes. I can keep an eye out for trouble and I don’t have to resort to violence to be useful, do I? I could cause a distraction or something.”
This was never going to work. I had already proven myself an incompetent planner among trained fellow soldiers. How was I supposed to execute a plan using middle-aged lovebird civilians? Robert was as good as dead.
My feelings must have shown in my face, because Marisa set down her cup. “What’s the matter, dear? Don’t you think we can do it?”
She reminded me so much of Auntie in that moment that I had a sudden inspiration. Auntie wasn’t a fighter either, but she was a master at signals and clever disguises. I had been thinking about this problem in the wrong way. Of course you couldn’t use civilians in the way you would soldiers. Civilians had their own unique strengths, though, and that was what I needed to capitalize on.
“Give me a piece of paper and a pen,” I told the doctor. “We’re going to make a list of your assets. Tell me everything, no matter how irrelevant you may think it is. We’re not stronger than our enemies, so we’ll just have to be smarter.”
It took nearly an hour, but by the end of our talk, I had a nice long list for each of them, detailing skills, weapons, equipment, and anything else that could be useful. It was a total mess and I told them I’d need to spend some time looking it over.
By this point the doctor couldn’t stay any longer and I was tired. I took my pills and laid down for a nap. When I woke up for dinner, Marisa seemed excited about something. “While you were asleep, I made some inquiries,” she said. “I can borrow my cousin’s donkey cart or rent us some horses for our mission. I’ve got good cover stories either way, so let me know what you want to do.”
That was good news. I added “donkey cart” and “horses” to my list.
After dinner, I looked at the map again and I think I have a plan. I’ll pass it by the doctor and Marisa tomorrow and see what they think. I’m not going to write it down ahead of time, though. I don’t think we’re being watched, but this is too important. Even if I didn’t love Robert, he’s the regional commander’s right-hand man and a lot is at stake. My plan has to work.
Tonight when Marisa gave me my evening medicines and turned back the covers, she gave me a funny look. “Will you be sending your Robert a private message, in addition to the official one? I’ve got some nice stationary if you want it.”
I didn’t feel like correcting her again about him not being “my Robert,” so I let it go. “I don’t know,” I told her, but I was lying. Of course I’m going to send a private message. I just don’t know yet what I’m going to say.
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