last night in a stable, remember?’’
‘‘You’ve got a point there,’’ Fargo agreed with a smile.
‘‘All right, then,’’ Grayson said. ‘‘Tell the man we’ll take the rooms. Belinda can have one of them and the rest of us will share the other one. Do we need to stand watch again, like we did last night?’’
‘‘Wouldn’t be a bad idea,’’ Fargo said. ‘‘I haven’t seen any sign of Stoddard’s men all day, but I’d be willing to bet they’re not far off, just waiting for a chance to strike at us again.’’
Fargo went back inside, followed by Grayson and Belinda, while Sandy and Jimmy tended to the horses. Fargo said to the big blond man behind the bar, ‘‘We’ll rent those rooms.’’
The man grunted. ‘‘Figured you would.’’ He turned his head and bellowed, ‘‘Angie!’’
A girl came through a door that led to the rear of the tavern. She wore an old dress that had been patched in several places, as well as an apron that had once been white but now was as gray as the one the owner wore. She kept her head down so that her thick blond hair hung around her face, concealing her features.
‘‘You get them rooms cleaned up like I told you?’’ the proprietor asked in a harsh voice.
The girl’s reply was so soft Fargo had trouble hearing it. ‘‘Yes, sir.’’
‘‘Got the stew cookin’?’’ The man’s tone was still sharp and impatient.
‘‘Good. We got folks stayin’ the night. You dish up some food for ’em—you hear me? And don’t waste any time doin’ it. Rattle them lazy bones o’ yours!’’
The girl turned to retreat into the back of the tavern. Fargo wasn’t sure how old she was—fifteen or sixteen, he guessed, maybe a little older—but she moved like she had the weight of decades on her. He had seen the way she flinched when the man roared at her. Fargo’s eyes narrowed as he thought about that.
He was starting to dislike the fella behind the bar more and more.
Grayson and Belinda took seats at a rough-hewn table. Fargo asked the owner, ‘‘You have any beer?’’
‘‘ Cerveza? Sure. Four bits a glass.’’
‘‘Steep,’’ Fargo commented.
‘‘Where else are you gonna—’’
‘‘Get any around here, I know,’’ Fargo broke in. He dropped a coin on the bar, hoping that the beer would be better than the owner’s attitude.
He was still sipping the watery, bitter brew when Sandy and Jimmy came in and joined him at the bar. ‘‘We made a deal with the blacksmith,’’ Sandy told Fargo. ‘‘He’s got a corral, where we’re keepin’ the horses tonight. Stage is parked right beside it.’’
Fargo nodded. ‘‘That sounds like the best we can do. Which seems to be a pretty common state of affairs around here, by the way.’’
‘‘Is that beer you’re drinkin’?’’ Sandy asked as he pointed at the cup in Fargo’s hand.
‘‘Sort of. The closest thing to it you’re going to find in Los Olivos, anyway.’’
Sandy signaled for the big blond man to bring him a cup, and when he had tried the beer, he smacked his lips, made a face, and said, ‘‘You weren’t joshin’, were you, Fargo?’’
The girl emerged from the back, carrying a platter with several bowls of stew on it. The smell that came from the bowls was the first good thing Fargo had encountered in this place. The appetizing aroma was laden with spices and wild onions and roasted meat.
‘‘Who’s that?’’ Jimmy asked.
Fargo turned to look at the young man and saw that Jimmy was staring at the girl. ‘‘She works here. The owner’s daughter or niece or something like that, more than likely,’’ Fargo explained. He didn’t add that the man talked to her like she was some sort of slave.
‘‘She sure is pretty,’’ Jimmy breathed with a note of awestruck wonder in his voice.
Fargo tried not to frown. To him the girl seemed to be on the scrawny side, and he still hadn’t seen her face