Alejandro set the butcher knife beside the other kitchen knives and pulled his own hunting knife from the sheath on his belt. He began sharpening his blade as his wife spoke.
"If you're looking for the weapon that cut Don Santiago's throat," Lorena said, "you'll have to check every knife in the Territory of Arizona. That's a lot of steel."
Paco smiled. "I realize that looking for the guilty knife seems like the long way of going about my investigation, Lorena."
"Oh, I don't mind how you go about doing your job, sheriff. Especially not in this case. You take your time talking to everyone you want to about our patrón. If you look far enough and long enough, you'll find the man who murdered Don Santiago. But I'm certainly in no hurry to see the poor man brought to what will pass for justice, once his name is made known."
"What would you call justice in this case?" Paco asked.
"They'll probably hang the feller," Alejandro answered for his wife. "I wouldn't call that justice at all."
"According to his widow, the Territory has lost one of its finest citizens," Paco said.
"Doña Margarita would say something like that," said Lorena. "That's because she is a true saint, but she was married to a devil."
Alejandro shook his head. "You shouldn't say such terrible things about a man who is dead, Lorena."
"My husband is superstitious, sheriff. He thinks the terrible spirit of the patrón will come back to wreak vengeance upon us if we speak badly of him, even if it's the truth."
"My wife exaggerates. But she forgets to whom she is speaking." Alejandro directed his next words to his wife. "I just don't think it's a good idea to say exactly what we thought of a dead man to the sheriff who's investigating that man’s murder."
"Even if it is the truth," Lorena added with a sharp nod of her head.
Paco chuckled. "You'd be amazed how brave some people have been during this investigation. I realize some of Don Santiago's business practices didn't endear him to many people, but I'm confused about his conduct as a husband. After all the wonderful things Doña Margarita said--"
"The señora is far better off now that she's rid of el diablo." Lorena spoke through gritted teeth. "She is free of his evil hatred. Free to love a man who truly loves her. Free to--"
"My wife is far too free with her own words," Alejandro said above Lorena's angry voice. "Perhaps it would be wiser for her to keep her opinions to herself and concentrate on the facts, so the sheriff can conduct his investigation."
Lorena blushed and lowered her eyes as she slammed the meat cleaver onto the table to chop another chunk off the slab of beef. She was properly chastised, but even her husband couldn't keep her from knowing what was the truth.
"May I assume, then, that Doña Margarita truly is better off with her husband gone?" Paco kept his voice as light and unofficial as he could manage.
Lorena looked up at Paco and smiled. Alejandro smiled too, in spite of his fear of the sheriff's authority.
"And even if you aren't in favor of my identifying the killer, is it safe to assume that it is possible that the patrón was killed because of a . . . "--Paco had to choose his words carefully-- " . . . certain loyalty to the patrona?"
"Perhaps," Alejandro said softly. "But you must be aware, sheriff, that the people who are loyal to the patrona are almost as numerous as those who were not so fond of the patrón."
Paco nodded. "I am aware of that fact, Alejandro."
"So, if you can count the grains of sand in the desert . . . " Lorena began.
"Then I would be able to count the number of suspects in this case," Paco finished.
All three smiled over their mutual understanding. Paco picked up the hunting knife that Alejandro set on the table beside his wife's kitchen knives. He turned the blade over to study the edge the old man had put on it.
"Very nice blade, Alejandro."
"It's my favorite hunting knife, sheriff," the old Indian man said unashamedly. "I wouldn't be caught dead without it."
Paco had a feeling most of the men on his list of suspects felt exactly the same way about their own weapons.