The grizzled old prospector adjusted his hat, partly to shade his eyes from the searing California sun and partly because he took pleasure in making his appearance as symmetrical as possible – the last vestige of a tendency towards obsessive-compulsive behaviour which had largely been beaten out of him by years scrubbing around in the dust of dry riverbeds in search of gold.
‘Can’t say as I remember,’ he muttered. With a sigh, Lorenzo tossed another coin on the ground between them.
‘That help?’ he asked. The sigh had been as much genuine exasperation as the show of exasperation he had intended to make in order to give the impression that he was frustrated enough to walk away without having bought the information he was after. The casual flick of the wrist he had affected in order to drop the coin had been carefully calculated to convey an ease with money and disregard for its value. The words he had chosen – “that help?” – were deliberately curt and laced with a certain contempt which he hoped would shame the old man into cooperating.
‘Might just,’ said the prospector, with a yawn. In part, the yawn was an attempt not to be outdone in the presentation of a casual demeanour, but it was also a way to put this inquisitive stranger off his guard in case a sudden act of aggression was called for. In addition, the movement of his facial muscles when he yawned allowed him to squint without appearing uncomfortable. As well as this, the air which the yawn drew into his lungs, hot as it was, refreshed him. Also, he was sleepy.