The Irish Colonel
"You know, Bernardo," Diego de la Vega
noted as he put down the book on Irish history, "it might be very
enlightening to go into town and see the aftermath of Zorro's activities.
If Sergeant García is not in the brig, he will probably be in the tavern.
Then we can find out what happened and see if we need to do anything
Bernardo nodded and picked up his own jacket and hat which he began putting on.
Diego laughed. "Hmm, you seem to be in a
hurry to satisfy your curiosity. All right, let's do it." With these
words he rose from his chair and took the hat that Bernardo handed him.
Within a few minutes, both men were out on the road headed for Los
As they headed down the road, they were overtaken
by a troop of six soldiers with torches. At their head was Capitán
"What are you doing out here on the road, De
la Vega?" he asked as he road up alongside Diego's palomino. He
ignored the servant.
"Good evening, Capitán," Diego
responded. "It's so boring at home that I thought I would ride into
town this evening and see if there is any entertainment at the tavern.
What are you doing out here so late?"
"We have been looking for an escaped
prisoner," the officer responded. "You haven't seen anything or
anyone suspicious have you?"
"Only you, Comandante," Diego replied in
an innocent voice. "Is this man dangerous? Would you be my escort
into town? I would be very upset to think a criminal is on the loose. How
did it happen?"
"Never mind how it happened," Enrique Monastario replied in an irritated tone. "As for an escort, if you want one, you had better keep up with His Majesty's troops, if you can."
With that, he spurred his white stallion forward
and the troops followed at a rapid pace.
"I think we had better hurry to keep up appearances, Bernardo," Diego said as he dug his heels into the horse's side and urged him forward.
"Why here he is," exclaimed Isabel Cárdenas,
answering the persistent knock on the door at the back of the store.
"Pedrito, darling, where have you been? I've been so worried about
you. Your father has been searching for you everywhere. Where on earth did
you disappear to?"
"I'm afraid it's all my fault," Paddy
said. "I've been giving Pedrito a ride on my new horse, Erin. I
wanted to convince Pedrito that he is faster than the horse of El Zorro,
but I'm afraid we only came in second place."
Pedrito looked up at the colonel and smiled. He
could see that the Irishman did not want him to get into trouble and would
"fib" a little to save him a scolding. But the fib was not a big
one and he did get to ride the great brown stallion, although it wasn't
"Oh, thank you, Colonel O' Leary,"
Isabel answered warmly. "How kind you are. You are a true friend to
care so much about Pedrito and our family."
Paddy felt a pang of guilt as he smiled, bowed to
the woman and boy, and bid them a pleasant evening. He knew now that the
boy's father was his enemy and he had sworn that he would kill him. He had
sworn that he would kill him for the honor of the regiment and for the
honor of Ireland.
"You should have been here this afternoon,
Corporal," Sergeant Demetrio García López was saying as he poured a
modest amount of wine in his friend's mug. "Zorro came right over the
wall of the cuartel. He snapped the lash out from Martin's hands with a
bull whip and knocked him right off his feet."
"What did you do then, Sergeant?" Reyes
asked with wide eyes.
"I charged at him with my sword. He ran
around the whipping posts and cut the ropes of the prisoners as he ran. I
blocked his way, raising my sword in the air. He ran around the other way,
trying to escape me. Here I was, all by myself. All the other soldiers
were sleeping or outside of the cuartel. No one seemed to notice that a
great battle was happening inside." He took a long drink of wine.
"Well, how did the prisoners escape?"
asked the corporal.
"Despite my heroic efforts to stop them, they
managed," the sergeant explained. "It was three against one,
"But the prisoners didn't have any weapons,
Sergeant," Reyes pointed out.
"What does that have to do with
anything?" García grumbled. "By then some soldiers began to
notice the noise and charged out of the barracks. They ran so fast that
they ran into me and knocked me over. All of us were knocked over. In the
confusion, the prisoners took two horses and escaped with the help of El
"Oh," the corporal replied. He was
silent a moment before he asked, "Say Sergeant, wasn't Zorro supposed
to attack tonight? Why did he come this afternoon?"
"How should I know, stupid? When I see him,
I'll be sure to ask him!" García was getting tired of the questions.
"Have some more wine, Corporal. At least the comandante left for a
little while this afternoon. If he had come back sooner, though, this
would have never happened."
"I'm not so sure about that, Sergeant,"
the corporal responded.
García thought about that for a moment. "You
might be right," he said.
A hand suddenly clamped him on the shoulder.
"Well, Sergeant," said the voice of Don Diego, "I heard
that you almost captured Zorro again this afternoon." He had
overheard the sergeant's rendition of the rescue and had to wipe the grin
off his face before approaching the two soldiers. Bernardo had turned his
back and was laughing silently at the bar.
"Oh, good evening, Don Diego," García
smiled. "Yes, Zorro barely got away from me again today, but I will
get him another time."
"You know, Sergeant," continued Diego,
"each time Zorro is barely escaping from you with his life. How is it
that he manages to get away at the last minute?"
García shook his head. "I have often
wondered that myself, Don Diego. You must remember that Zorro is very
clever. This time he came armed with a bullwhip. He was knocking soldiers
over right and left with it. How can you fight a man with a bull
"Uh, Sergeant, I thought you said that,"
began Reyes with a finger raised to make a point.
"Quiet, baboso! Who is telling the story, me
or you? Who was there, me or you? Let me tell Don Diego what
While García spoke, the door to the inn opened
and a grim Paddy O' Leary entered the room. He made for a table near the
cold fireplace and sat down at it. He looked very preoccupied. He seemed
not to notice anyone else in the room.
Diego turned slightly in his chair and looked over
at the colonel. He glanced at Bernardo and shook his head slightly.
Bernardo nodded. Diego turned back again to listen to García's story.
The barmaid spotted the colonel and took a bottle
over to him. He looked up at her and smiled and nodded. She put down a mug
for him and poured out some wine. She could see that his mind was leagues
from the tavern and she left him in peace.
Diego was about to excuse himself and head over to
O' Leary's table when Capitán Enrique Monastario entered the tavern. He
glanced over at the table with the two soldiers and Diego de la Vega, then
saw Paddy seated near the fireplace. He hung up his hat and went up to the
"Good evening, Paddy. May I join you?"
the captain asked politely.
Paddy O' Leary looked up at the comandante and
gestured him to sit down. The captain waved a barmaid over. She brought
over another mug and bottle of wine. Both men were silent a while before
"Paddy, are you going to tell me about what
happened between you and the bandit, Zorro?" he asked.
O' Leary sighed. "I suppose so,
Enrique." He took a long drink of wine. He watched as Monastario
sipped his. There was a long silence.
"Is something bothering you, Paddy?" the
officer asked after a while.
"There are a number of things bothering me,
Enrique," Paddy responded quietly. "But first, I'll tell you
what happened, briefly. The man's horse is like the wind, even with a neck
wound. I chased him until it was too dark to follow. There were times in
which I was fairly close to him, but the man knows the land like you know
your own face and that is a definite advantage. I will give you my
analysis in sum. It is my contention that El Zorro is, first of all, a
military veteran with the elite corps. As a first class swordsman, you
should recognize this. Secondly, knowing the land as he does, he grew up
here as a native, and last, he is well-educated and committed to
challenging everything he views as injustice, no matter what quarter it
"Tell me something I don't know, Paddy,"
Monastario snapped. "I'm surprised that your final analysis does not
say that this bandit is also a republican, a rebel of the worst political
type. Look at the traitors he rode to free. These prisoners are not just
petty criminals. They are traitors. Anyone who frees a traitor is one
Paddy took another long drink of wine and regarded
the comandante very calmly. "And what is your analysis of the
traitor's reference to Mina?"
The officer sipped his wine again. "It must
be some kind of code word," he replied thoughtfully, without a trace
of his original anger. "I was thinking back to what he did in Spain
before he came to the colonies."
"And what were his crimes there? Blasphemy?
Exile? " the Irishman asked flatly.
"It was treason, pure and simple,"
Monastario said, putting the mug down. "Imagine, Mina demanding that
our king accept a constitutional form of government!" he continued
with vehemence. "The next step would be exactly what the French
attempted - to destroy the monarchy, to destroy the nobility, to destroy
the Church, and to destroy civilization. Look what happened to all of
Europe because of those republicans! Millions died in nearly twenty-five
years of continuous wars. All of our lives were disrupted and changed for
Monastario was angry, but his anger was
controlled. He paused and looked into the Irishman's green eyes. "I
hate them, Paddy. I hate them all because of what they did to Spain and
because of what they did to me and to my family. That is why I have no
pity for them. It is why I will fight them by any and all means
"We are talking about Spaniards here, Enrique, men who define loyalty to Spain differently than you and I do," Paddy pointed out. "Yet it is a concept that unites us all."
He searched for the right words. "Loyalty to
Spain for many men is almost spiritual. For others it is cultural and
historic, or it is emotional and is based on a feeling of community. Some
men might feel a stronger loyalty, say, to Navarre, or to Aragon, some to
Andalusia or to the Canary Islands. Sometimes that can assume a higher
form other than just to the system of monarchy alone. It is a concept of
Spain in its entirety, a concept of all the people."
O'Leary paused as he put down his own mug, then he
continued. "Does this mean that the De la Vegas and the Torres are
all in the category as Mina? How about the Alcalde, the Calderons, the
Villas, and others?"
Monastario gave him a hard look. "Those old
bastards. Both of them deserve the gibbet. The rest are followers, not
leaders. Their offspring might be redeemable, though. I told you that I
would try many methods to, how should I put it, bring them back into the
fold. But my patience is limited. Spain is the monarchy and the monarchy
is Spain. Everything that is historic and cultural is the monarchy. You
come from the old nobility of Ireland, Paddy. Surely you should understand
that the nobility is the backbone of civilization. When you free your land
from the English, you will assume your rightful place in your land as a
lord. Don't destroy yourself by sympathizing with these republicans. Even
your life could be in danger."
"Is that a threat, Enrique?"
"Consider it a warning from an old friend,
Paddy. There are those far less tolerant than I. General Morillo would
have leveled Los Angeles." Enrique Monastario poured each of them a
little more wine. "What are your other concerns?"
"Since Zorro is possibly a veteran, who are
the veterans in the area and ones young enough to pull off such
"My major suspect is old man Torres. He was
in the wars long before Bonaparte and is a well-known republican."
"You can't be serious," Paddy admonished
him. "Do you really believe that the man who fought with you this
afternoon is Torres? Such a man would have to be little older than you or
I and perhaps even younger. Torres is much too old for such feats."
"I will gather more information on who has
served in the military," Monastario replied. "Then I will see
who is right on this issue." He waved a barmaid over. "I'm
ordering dinner, Paddy. What would you like?"
"More wine," answered the Irishman.
"No, I'm not angry at you, Pedrito,"
Roberto Cárdenas told his son. "I'm sorry I was angry this
afternoon. My anger had nothing to do with you." He held the boy
close and caressed his hair.
"But why are you leaving, Papa?" his son
asked again. "Is someone trying to kill you again? Why can't you tell
"Sometimes it is dangerous to tell anyone
anything, son. If Capitán Monastario were to question you or your mother,
it might be very dangerous for you to know anything. If you know nothing,
then you can honestly say that you know nothing. Often, mean men can
frighten people in to telling them secrets, even if we don't want to tell
them anything at all. Fear is a powerful weapon that the powerful can use
against us. Do you understand, Pedrito?"
The boy nodded. "I think so, Papa. But I
wouldn't tell anybody."
"I know," the father said. "I'm
glad that we could have this talk. Sometimes the people that seem to be
our friends turn out to be our enemies. Sometimes we never know who is
telling the truth and who is lying, until it is too late. I am leaving
because I must. I will be in contact with your mother. When it is safe for
all of you to join me, we will be together again."
"Will it be a long time?" Pedrito asked.
"And who are our friends who could be our enemies?"
"I don't know for sure," Roberto
answered carefully. "Sometimes you just have to go on a
feeling." He knew he was misleading the boy, but that is the way it
had to be. He knew exactly who Patrick O' Leary was and he knew that he
had to avoid him to prevent him from avenging an injustice that was in
itself an injustice. And Roberto Cárdenas was an enigma wrapped in an
enigma and there were those, like spiders, who were unraveling his web of
deception and who were getting dangerously near to him once again - both
Loyalists and Republicans.
Enrique Monastario pushed his plate back and took
a sip of his wine. He regarded the brooding Irishman thoughtfully.
"Tell me this, Paddy. What exactly are your intentions regarding Señorita Torres?"
"And what's it to you?" Paddy retorted
"That should be obvious. I suggest that you
take your interests elsewhere." The comandante's intent was
unmistakable despite his calm demeanor.
The colonel perked up at the challenge and gave a
sly smile. "All's fair in love and war, Enrique."
"This goes far beyond that!" Monastario
responded with a hostile coolness.
"Who I chose as me friends are my affair,
Enrique. If I chose to have Señorita Torres as a friend, that is likewise
my business. I suggest that you try not to dictate to me my social
relations. If you are so worried about our relationship, then perhaps you
need to improve your own. Don't let your tongue cut your throat."
"That advice applies both ways. I once told
you, Colonel, that the affairs of state here in Los Angeles are
multi-structured. There is a dire need to create stability where chaos
lurks and I intend to prevent California from following the example of México
or Venezuela. You know my intentions in this regard. I will allow nothing
to stand in my way of attaining these goals."
"Very well, Enrique. Let the best man
win," Paddy said with a yawn. "Shall I fill your glass?"
When the other man regarded him with a stony
silence, he shrugged. "Well, then, I'll just offer a toast: Better
the coldness of a friend than the sweetness of an enemy." He tipped
his mug towards the officer opposite him and drank. When he put down the
empty mug, he poured himself out more wine.
"Tell me, this, Enrique," Paddy
continued, putting his own mug down, "since we're on the subject of
social relationships and ladies: just what are your intentions regarding
Señorita Flores?" He regarded the officer with a cool look of his
The bright blue eyes did not avoid his and there
was a slight smile on the face of the man with the moustache and goatee, a
kind of grudging admiration for the other's ability to parry and repose
whenever he could. "My congratulations, Paddy," he responded.
"Despite your reluctance to part with any significant information
that you have obtained while here in Los Angeles, you retain my respect
for your intelligence-gathering capabilities. It is why I engaged you to
"And what have you gleaned, Capitán, from
that political innocent?"
"Many interesting things, Paddy,"
Monastario replied in an easy manner. "Let's say that a republican
conspiracy lurks below the surface and that many republicans are gathered
here in Los Angles. Some of them have very checkered pasts and some are in
hiding. You yourself seem very interested in a certain storekeeper or a
member of his family and their past."
Paddy gave a short laugh. "And I thought you
were going to accuse me of conspiring with Don Nacho. Enrique, for once
you are off the mark. Next to the tavern, the general store has been the
recipient of my business. I'm a good customer and the family is rather
fond of me for that reason alone. I take it that you've investigated Señor
Pacheco as well? He might be smuggling me some stout from Ireland."
The comandante of Los Angeles looked doubtful at
his words but picked up the wine bottle and poured more into both mugs. He
knew Paddy was lying about the storekeeper, but he did not know why. But
he did know why he might lie about the storekeeper's wife.
"I won't mince words, Paddy," Monastario
came to the point. "I know exactly who Isabel Cárdenas is. She is
the wife of a traitor whom I hanged in Peru. General Morillo told me later
that, of the two, she should have been the one hanged. I have kept watch
on her ever since I arrived last year." He paused and took a sip of
wine. "She's a few years older and put on some weight, but you can't
hide beauty like that."
Paddy marveled at the comandante's political scope
of the community. He honestly liked Isabel Cárdenas and admired her even
more now knowing the breadth of her past activism. He decided to risk a
little information in order to save her life.
"You know, Enrique," he began casually,
"I've gotten to know the family quite well. Isabel actually confided
to me what happened to her husband in Peru. But I think you did your work
well there. She has not been active since she arrived here with her new
husband. She has a child to worry about now and nothing makes a woman more
cautious than having a child to worry about. I don't think you'll find a
republican conspiracy lurking in the general store. No matter what her
past might have been, she wants a quiet life without troubles here in Los
"For once, you've given me some useful
information," the captain remarked. "I have had serious doubts
about your intentions, Paddy. You were much better in Spain at finding out
who our enemies were."
"Life isn't as clear cut as it once
was," the Irishman mused. "We didn't even run after the same
kind of girls."
"You couldn't be more wrong," Monastario responded sharply. "If anything, the lines drawn today are even sharper, more distinct. Republicanism never changes. It may have a French face at first, then it changes to an English face. Here, it has a Spanish face, but it is still the face of subversion and it must be fought with resolution, without hesitation!"
The Spanish officer paused, looked up and watched Diego de la Vega go up to the bar and order another bottle of wine for the soldiers at the table. He returned his attention to the red-haired man next to him. "As for girls, I suggest you meet the other charming ladies of this pueblo. I do not intend to lose the campaign I am waging. I do not lose campaigns."
Paddy smiled easily. "It's always a good idea
to have an alternative, Enrique, because nothing in life is certain, not
even the relentless waging of war. Surely, a sword and a pistol are not
the only weapons in your arsenal."
"True," the man with the goatee and moustache acknowledged," but, my eyes will always be on this prize." He startled the Irishman by raising his mug of wine to him and adding, "Oh, by the way, Colonel, when you finally deal with your enemy, I agree not to interfere in your administration of 'justice'. You just do the same with me."