Comandante of Monterey
and the Challenge of Señorita Anamaría Verdugo
Eugene H. Craig
Two Spanish officers walked in silence back to
the cuartel. Each had much on his mind and neither one realized the
other's thoughts were probably very close to his own.
Luís del Guerro thought of all the
possibilities for suspects, of all the information that Melana had given
him earlier, and about what he needed to do. And the evening would be
far from over for both of them.
When he looked up, he spotted the evening star
again, though it was further up in the sky, and began to think about
Anamaría and her long lashes and raven hair. He thought that he had
never seen her look so elegant as she did this evening in that dark blue
dress with the silver necklace with the seagull. He began to trace her
features from the curve of her chin to her smile, which he often thought
was so alluring. She can really charm the boots off a man and, he
admitted, she was certainly succeeding with him as well, even if she
didn't know it. And he thought of her scent, the unforgettable jasmine
from the garden.
Then there was the fact that everyone in
Monterey knew she was in love with the dashing outlaw, Zorro, whom
Captain del Guerro found difficult to really dislike. If that man had
been in my regiment, he thought, he would have certainly gone far. Luís
preferred someone like Señor Zorro be on the side of law and order
rather than opposing it in the way he did. But since the man had placed
himself on the side of rebellion, he would have to do his duty if it
came to that. Would Anamaría ever understand that he would have to do
his duty to the King if he ever caught the outlaw?
And when he talked to her about the stars this
evening and she allowed him to see a little of her inner self, he felt
compelled to want to find out more. I wonder if she could ever realize
that I yearn to take her to the lookout under the stars and make her
feel safe, even though it would only be the two of them there. And the
wilds of California would not matter. They would watch the stars cross
the sky and hear the sounds of the night that were for him both an
escape as well as a reminder of another fair woman whom he could not
tear from his memory yet whose face was becoming more elusive as time
wore on. My darling, forgive me, but you are lost to me forever. It's
time to move on, Luís, he told himself.
The comandante of Monterey suddenly became aware
of a nearby presence and he put his hand on the hilt of his saber and
slowed to a halt. At his side, Morales, too, noticed a presence - two
shadows moving in from a dark side street. His hand likewise gripped his
sword and he assumed a stance ready for battle. As the saber began to
creep out of the scabbard, a familiar voice spoke their names,
"Lieutenant Morales? Comandante del Guerro?"
"Gentlemen?" responded Luís
cautiously but authoritatively in his well-known baritone. It was dark
now and he was going to take no chances even with the lanterns that
illuminated the plaza up ahead.
"A thousand pardons, Señores,"
replied another voice. "We have been looking for both of you this
evening. It regards a request for information from Lieutenant
"Won't you gentlemen come with us to the
cuartel?" asked del Guerro. "We are on our way there
"I understand that you have someone under
arrest, Comandante. I would really prefer if he did not see us,"
said the second man. "Our confidentiality protects both of
"These men are trustworthy, Captain,"
said Morales in a voice barely above a whisper.
"Very well," responded Luís.
With that the two men turned around and headed
back up the dark and deserted side street from which they had emerged.
The two officers followed them. Just a few steps away, one of them
opened a door into a room dimly lit by a few candles and all four
entered. There were a few chairs, a small table and a narrow bed. The
only glint of color in the room was a small painting of the Savior in a
corner and a cross over the bed.
of the strangers sat on the edge of the bed. He was of average height
and sported a dark, thick moustache. His clothing showed that he was
probably a driver for some local merchant's carriage. The second man was
taller than either the captain or the lieutenant but unlike the other
three men in the room, he was clean-shaven. His hair was flecked in gray
and Luís thought he carried himself like an ex-soldier.
The older man came to the point right away.
"You asked about Señor Verdugo. He was seen at the doctor's today.
His shirt and jacket were covered in blood. I did not see this myself,
but made inquiries. I do not know whether he was wounded and, if he was,
how badly. My informant said he walked in of his own accord and carried
a bundle. I do not know where he is now."
The darker man on the bed spoke up. "You
asked about Carlos García. The word is that he is a confidant to Velásquez
in the hide trades, a man neither to trust another nor to be trusted.
Velásquez was to meet with him today, but García left town earlier. He
headed north. Make of that what you will. He later returned to the inn.
It is said that he was talking to Hernando, the warehouse man, in the
afternoon. My informants tell me that if you want to find where the
graft is at, begin with this triad."
"You gentlemen have been most industrious
in your inquiries and shall be rewarded," said the comandante of
Monterey. "Without your vigilance and patriotism, our kingdom would
be all the poorer still. I thank you. Do you have any questions,
"Can either of you gentlemen say at what
time these events occurred?" asked Morales. "Timing is often
"García left after a late breakfast,"
said the man on the bed. “He returned no more than 2 hours later. It
was late afternoon when he met with Hernando, approximately 6 o'clock.
Then he went to the inn for dinner. A friend will let me know what
happened later this evening.” He turned towards the captain. "I
can let you know first thing in the morning, if you wish, Excellency.
I'll send a third party to the cuartel."
"Yes, thank you," replied Luís.
"Señor Verdugo was seen at the doctor's
after the noon hour, Comandante," said the taller man. “My
informant said he did not leave until the late afternoon.”
"I think this is the information we need,
Captain," said Morales. "Thank you, too, gentlemen."
The two men nodded and all four departed the
room, the two officers for the cuartel and the two informants for their
Upon arriving at the cuartel, the comandante
ordered the corporal on duty to prepare a detail of four soldiers for a
patrol. "Be ready within a half an hour to ride," he ordered.
Both officers went into the comandante's office
and closed the door. "We are going to pay Señor Verdugo a surprise
visit tonight, Morales," said Luís. "I have a feeling that we
may be able to find out just what happened at the rancho this
"I agree, Capitán. It also seems that our
dinner engagement was to keep our opponents guessing and I am thinking
that the one to keep guessing is the mysterious Señor García. If he is
behind the mischief, then keeping Velásquez in irons could be the wedge
From behind his door, Luís heard some whining.
He went to his quarters at once. The puppy jumped up and down, wanting
to be held. “All right, little Fella,” said the captain and lifted
him into his arms, scratching his ears, stroking his head
affectionately, “but we’re not here for long. When I get back,
I’ll give you some more attention, meanwhile we’ll change back to
our dusty clothes.” The puppy licked the officer's cheek as if he
There was a tap at his door. Morales peered in.
“Oh, I forgot, Capitán.” In his hand he clutched a dinner
serviette. He unrolled it and pulled out a piece of beef. “Something
for Fella from the dinner table.”
Luís shook his head. “I missed that
completely. Don’t tell me you’ve been holding on to that all
“Oh, not at all. It was Melana’s doing. When
you were engaged with Señorita Anamaría, she made her move.” He
leaned down to give the eager puppy the morsel. The puppy’s tail
wagged continuously while he chewed the generous piece.
Luís smiled. “Speaking of Señorita Melana,
she’s a fine young lady. She seems to be quite taken by a certain
lieutenant.” He winked at the officer.
“As is that officer by her,” replied Alonso.
“She’s the most fascinating young lady I’ve ever met. It’s hard
not to be distracted by thoughts of her.”
“These ladies are a constant distraction,”
Luis commented as he removed his clean tunic. “Especially Anamaría.”
“Not to break a confidence, Captain, but Señorita
Anamaría asked me about you this evening. I think she wants to get to
know the man beyond the uniform.”
“Indeed? That’s not an easy task,” said Luís
slowly, buttoning up his morning tunic. “Look how long it took you.”
“Yes, that is true. But I always thought that
you were worth it. I think Señorita Anamaría is also worth it, but if
anything, she will be more of a challenge than you were."
"I have no doubt of that, but I have always
found a challenge most stimulating." Luis buckled on his belt, gave
the puppy a lift up to the bed and a final pat. "Go, change, my
friend. We may have a long night ahead of us." Morales departed and
Luís began to gather some extra ammunition for his pistol. "Wish
us luck, little Fella," he said to the puppy when he finished his
chores. With that, he left the office.