The Colonel arrived in New Mexico Territory as a decorated Union Army veteran from Missouri. At least that's what his grandson’s widow wrote in her history of the ranch. It wasn’t true but in the collection of lies that made up the story of the Cozy Y, it's barely on the radar.
The whole valley is haunted by the lies and secrets. Every so often an objective innocent will expose some truth. Secrets will well up and spill out. Or once in a long while a truth uncovers itself. But time will cover everything again. Secrets soak back into the sand.
Only the lies endure, sometimes like solid objects beneath the surface, adding unexamined weight to the measure of events and decisions. Other times the lies are more like labyrinthian rabbit holes, mazes of dark tunnels and dead ends.
When Cat’s thesis about the Perea Land grant was finished, her professor's response was muted. She thought the revelations might change something. But he said three-hundred year old surveying mistakes don't matter to anyone but academics. If it didn't alter real estate interests or title insurance, it didn't matter. It was like he was telling her that all her work didn't matter. It was disheartening.
Then Chocky pointed out that if people don't know about it, how does the professor know they don't care? And maybe some people do know and just don't want others to find out.
Annie got the same muted response years ago when she published the Cozy Y story. She longed to boost her book sales but got blank faces and un-returned calls when she offered to speak about it at the history groups, the chamber, and the league.
Hers was not a scholarly work. It was more like a photography book on cheap paper with error-filled and misleading introduction and captions. The photographs were without titles, dates or attributions. She had assembled them in rough chronological order and included nearly everything associated with the ranch, regardless of present ownership or permissions.
Boxes of these books remained stacked in Annie’s garage unopened until the fire destroyed them. Cat estimated that twenty books were missing from the only opened box. Copies at the pubic library had disappeared. Thankfully Rosa kept one that she gave to Chocky.
"What happened to all the prints and negatives? They weren't in Annie’s things. I’m sure of that.” Cat swiveled on a barstool to face Sadie who sat on her usual perch at the end of the bar.
The book had a garish orange cover that caught the light as Chocky thumbed through the pages. It was the same unfortunate shade that Annie had chosen for the ranch house trim. Sadie repainted this basement room with the same color against her interior designer's wishes, telling her she liked the way it looked in the dark and that it reminded her of her mother.
“She burned all those boxes. Why wouldn’t she have burned the photos too?” Chocky asked.
“Superstition.” Sadie said as she sauntered over to look over their shoulders. “Dad said destroying photographs was bad luck. She probably didn’t believe him but didn’t want to take any chances."
Cat noticed Sadie was much sharper and happier since Ace had left or disappeared. She looked better too. She guessed she wasn't drinking as much although she was now holding a delicate crystal glass of green absinthe in one hand and a long gold vape pen in the other. She pointed at a photo with it.
It was a larger photo on two-pages of men sitting at tables in old Perea's bar. “That’s my Grandfather Alvalito, the mural artist. This is the only picture of it I've ever seen."
Chocky said quietly, "It's the mural, not the men.” Then more loudly, "It’s too dark in here. Let’s get a better look.”
He left and returned a few minutes later with a magnifying glass. Sadie got a desk lamp and plugged it in behind the bar. They took turns examining the photo for the better part of two hours.