Rural folk in the hamlet of Malauva found it odd when a party of men gathered up the mountain in a Toltec ruin jutting from a promontory like a prehistoric fortification. The eight kept to themselves, buying only cooked mutton, pigeon, vegetables, and bread from young Tortola, a boy who lived down the hillside where maize plots abutted the rocky cliffs.
In the village below, the womenfolk surmised such men must be military or perhaps secret police since the newcomers shunned outsiders and tequila, although Tortola reported the leader's accent was unlike anything he'd ever heard. Work, however, was too hard and the ground too stony for idle speculation.
That February, policia brought word to the village that Juanita Sanchez's boy had died crossing the Chihuahua desert. Villagers accepted the news with resignation and shared fermented coffee with the police. Before praying for their dead and returning to work, the villagers passingly mentioned that band of men up the mountainside. Curious, the police turned their Jeep up the slope for a visit.
Late that night, the Jeep ground through the village, briefly waking Tortola. The following morning when he hoofed tortillas and eggs up to the ruins, he found it deserted, everything except the stone altar.
Tortola located the two policemen, a horror that would forever haunt the devout boy. The policia had been stripped to their underwear, their hands bound behind their backs. Strangled by the gold chains around their necks, they had been garroted with force until the crushed crucifixes glinted through the gore.
Meanwhile, the eight had disappeared.