“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
~ Edmund Burke
Father Xavier Grajeda was tired. It was late. He had been summoned to a small adobe shed on the edge of the village. It smelled of offal and excrement. Tools of all shapes and sizes were affixed to the walls.
Before him, blindfolded and on her knees was a young Indian girl. She was probably no more than fifteen years of age. Her arms were tied with hemp in a rough knot behind her back. At her side was Captain Carabajal. His breast plate and morion sparkled in the candlelight.
“She is a bruja, a witch, a sorceress,” the Captain pronounced with a kick to the girl’s midsection. The child let out a gasp as the air was knocked out of her. “The Governor requires that you secure her confession.”
“Indeed? What has she done to deserve such…” The Franciscan stopped himself. He didn’t want to know. It didn’t matter. He knelt beside the girl. “Tell me child, what is your name?”
“Her name is Maria. She hails from San Ildefonso,” Carabajal interjected.
Grajeda ignored the Captain as best he could. “Have you anything to confess, child?”
The girl spit in Grajeda’s direction and spoke something in tongue he did not understand. Before he could react, Carabajal’s gauntlet covered fist struck the girl squarely in the face. The chattering stopped and blood began to pour from child’s mouth where several teeth had previously been. “She speaks the Devil’s words!”
Grajeda shook his head. She was probably speaking Tewa, but it was fruitless to argue. Instead, he focused on the young captive. “I am a servant of God. I am here to listen. Does Captain Carabajal speak the truth? Do you conspire with demons against our Lord?”
Carabajal did not wait for the girl to respond. He had found a blacksmith’s hammer on the wall. Raising it above his head, the captain brought the hammer down upon the girl’s right shoulder. A snapping noise, reminiscent of breaking of branches, echoed through the work shed. This was followed by the child’s screams.
Maria’s arm now hung at an awkward angle. At the very least, he had dislocated her shoulder, but Grajeda thought it more likely that Captain Carabajal had broken her clavicle and possibly her scapula. It was best not to think about such things. The Franciscan raised his voice to make his words audible over the child’s screams. “Maria, have you anything to confess?”
Grajeda knew it was a moot point. Carabajal had already found another tool: sheep shears. The captain was upon her before the screaming had died down. He raised the shears to her head and began to clip. Hair, along with portions of the child’s ears and nose, fell away, as did the blindfold.
Grajeda could now see into Maria’s eyes. Her pupils reflected the emptiness within him. More to himself than to Maria, Father Xavier Grajeda whispered, “For the good of us all, confess.”
Bio: Matthew J. Barbour is a speculative fiction author living with his wife and three children in Bernalillo, New Mexico. When he is not writing fiction, Mr. Barbour manages Jemez Historic Site and contributes to a number of regional newspapers, including the Red Rocks Reporter and the Sandoval Signpost.