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The Hundredth Meridian

Treasure Mountain

In the elation and excitement produced by Héctor’s interview with the curandera, he and Jesús “Eddie” could barely resist the impulse to start at once for Ladron Peak.  A late-winter storm of unusual force for central New Mexico restored them to their senses, blanketing the peak and the mountains to the southwest and east in snow and immobilizing the city of Belen for thirty-six hours.  Each time Héctor’s eyes were drawn—as happened at least a dozen times a day now—to the whited silhouette of Ladron, he thanked the Lord Jesus that he and Jesús “Eddie” had not been caught out on its slopes, with nothing to protect them from the elements but Jesús’s pickup truck and a nylon tent.  After consulting the Farmer’s Almanac, they set a tentative date for sometime in late April, when the threat of serious cold had passed and before the summer heat set in, for the start of the expedition.

Hermana Carmen Cortez (as the business card taped beside the doorbell read) had fulfilled Héctor’s worst misgivings.  Whether or not she was actually aged a hundred, as Jesús “Eddie” had claimed, she was, without doubt, the ugliest human being Héctor had ever beheld.  As a small child, he’d been taken to visit a museum in Mexico where the family had been shown an exhibit of mummified babies...

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