Reyes Takes a Vacation;

A Crossover in 4 and 1/2 parts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Four

 

Reyes was just finishing the last of the wine when Don Diego and Capitán Rogers came down the stairs.   He stared at the transformation of his new friend.  While the legs of the trousers brushed the ground, the capitán would pass for a caballero without any second notice.   And certainly would not be thought of as an angel.

“You ready to go into town, Corporal?” Buck asked with a grin, seeing the look on Reyes’ face.  

“Sí!  Reyes cried out, a great smile breaking out on his own face.  Oh, he was ready to go into town.  This would be a day to remember!

“I will have one of the servants saddle an easy gaited horse,” Diego said to Buck, with a knowing smile.  “Just remember, Buck, you need to mold your body to that of the horse.  Feel his gait, relax and settle into the contours of his back.  Keep control, but try to feel your mount’s movements and match yourself to them.”  He smiled.  “I think you underestimate your abilities.”

“Maybe I am.  Thanks for the advice.  I really have ridden before, but I was a boy the last time I did,” Buck said ruefully.   “And there is a difference between a horse and what I normally ride.”

Diego smiled, not even imagining what someone ‘from the stars’ might normally ride.  “I will join you in the pueblo.  You two go on ahead and I will catch up.”  He motioned to his servant.

The good de la Vega wine was making him mellow, and Reyes felt like he was on the clouds.  He was soon going to have enough money to do things he had wanted to do for a long time.  If anyone had told him two days ago that he was going to meet an angel who would help him, Reyes would have laughed in his face.  He glanced over at Señor Buck, who was doing better on his borrowed horse, and grinned broadly. 

“Please do not count your money before I win it, Corporal,” Buck said, seeing the look of eager anticipation on the soldier’s face.  He held the reins in one hand and tried to pantomime.  It pleased him that he was feeling comfortable enough to do so.

“But you were sent to help me, you know.  I cannot help but feel you will win, Señor….”  

Buck mentally groaned.  This little venture was getting more and more complicated. 

“By the way, Capitán, what would you like me to call you?  You do not wish me to call you an angel.  You are or were a capitán.  Reyes shrugged his shoulders. 

“Buck is fine, Corporal.  We are friends, are we not?” 

“Sí, Señor Buck.”

Buck sighed, but he couldn’t worry about this now, he was concentrating on his riding.   While he noted that what he had learned so long ago was coming back and he was enjoying the ride on this horse, he also knew that he couldn’t become totally complacent.  The remainder of the ride was uneventful, with Buck and Corporal Reyes bantering, and Don Diego showing up just before they rode into the plaza.    The young don nodded his approval at his remembered skills and Buck felt a sense of accomplishment that was something akin to that which he felt when he had quickly mastered New Chicago’s starfighters.

They tied their horses at a hitching post near the church and walked to the tavern.   Reyes smiled again.  There were horses tied all around the plaza, the tavern would be busy with plenty of games of bruha being played.   Diego led the way into the tavern with Buck right behind him and Reyes bringing up the rear.  Buck blinked as he walked into the room.  Smoke hung in the air like a fog and the bantering chatter was almost as thick.  Reyes paused, seeing that even his prediction had been overshadowed by the truth.  Every table was filled and there were at least six card game in progress. 

Buck stood next to Diego, speaking English to him in a low voice.  “Which one would you suggest?” he asked the young Spaniard. 

“That one,” Diego said, indicating a table where sat Don Carlos and his friends.  He was feeling a bit perverse and sincerely hoped that the normally taciturn hacendado was in the mood to allow another player.  Diego would enjoy seeing Buck take him down a notch or two, assuming, of course, that Buck could beat him.  Apparently Don Carlos was winning today and in a big way.  The man was laughing and joking loudly.   He usually only did that when he had the upper hand.  

Diego motioned for Buck to follow.  Reyes was close behind.  “Don Carlos, I would like to introduce you to my friend, Don Guillermo.  He has arrived only today and was interested in joining your bruha game,” Diego explained. 

“Let him join that table,” Don Carlos said brusquely, pointing to a table filled with arguing soldiers. 

“Señor, that would be . . . um, too easy,” Buck interrupted with a smile, not waiting for Diego to answer and praying for the right words to come.  “I like to play only with the best bruha players.”  Buck added motions to convey his thoughts. 

Don Carlos gazed at him disdainfully.   Buck was beginning to get the impression that there was some ulterior reason for Diego picking this table.  There appeared to be no love lost between the two men.  However, it mattered not.  This taciturn rancher had a stack of money in front of him that would make Reyes a happy man for life, if Buck could get it from his greedy fingers.  “Or are you afraid that I will . . . win, Don Carlos?” he added, only his lack of the right words marring his mocking delivery. 

Don Carlos’ eyes snapped angrily.  “Of course not,” he growled, looking this stranger up and down, studying his every feature, including the taunting smile that was on young Don Guillermo’s face.  “I certainly do not mind you joining us.  That will only mean more money for us to take home later.”

One of the players, a man with nothing in front of him but the wine stained table, shook his head and got up.  “You are welcome to my seat, señor,” the man said.  “I am finished for the day.”

Buck sat down and made himself comfortable.   “Shall we begin?”

“Place two pesos in the middle,” Carlos said.   Pulling out the money that Reyes had given him on the way to town, he did so.   The man on Carlos’ right shuffled the cards and then started dealing.  Buck waited, studying each man while the cards were dealt.  He saw that the man to his right was a nervous player, drumming his fingers while he waited.  Don Carlos picked his cards up immediately, looking at each one separately.  The others were more casual, almost too casual, as they didn’t have much money in front of them.

When the dealer had dealt out all the cards, Buck looked at his hand.  He felt someone’s hot breath on his shoulder and turned to see Reyes gazing at his hand, his attention rapt, but his eyes betraying what Buck held in his fingers.  “Corporal, please.  Could you watch from over there?  Where you cannot see my hand.”  It would do no good to play for the corporal if the others could figure out his hand from Reyes’ reactions.  The soldier’s face fell.  “Please, Corporal.  It will be easier for me that way.”

“Sí, Señor Buck,” he said, disappointed, and turned and joined a particularly large man at another table.  Buck assumed this was the infamous Sergeant Garcia he had been told about.

Buck turned back to his hand and saw the cunning look on Don Carlos’ face.  The man had seen the corporal’s face and realized that Buck had a very good draw of cards.  The pilot knew he had to get a feel for these players before doing anything drastic, so he folded right there.

Don Carlos again won the pile in the middle of the table, gloating as he did so.  “You are not from here, señor.  You are foreign by the sound of your accent and the coarseness of your speech.  Where are you from?” he asked in a disdainful voice as he drew the money over to join his already large pile. 

“A great deal further away than you can imagine,” Buck said softly in English.   Thinking on his history, he added, “Chicago.”

“Never heard of it.  What country is that?”

“Part of the United States, señor,” Buck elaborated, this time in Spanish. 

“You are an Americano?

“That is what a person from the United States is usually called,” Buck said, somewhat sarcastically.

“Around here, a person from the United States is usually called a dog,” Don Carlos answered with a growl. 

Buck gazed evenly at the older man, keeping his face impassive.  Inside, though, he wished he could shove his fist right down the acerbic rancher’s throat. “Señor, no one else has told me I am a dog.”  Buck paused and smiled, leaning forward so that Carlos would hear him well.  “But where I come from there is an old . . . phrase, uh, saying—It takes one to know one.   I will answer your . . . I cannot think of the word, but I will answer you by taking your money at the cards.”  Buck leaned back and gazed at Carlos, who was now staring at him red-faced and angry.  “Unless you are afraid to lose to un pero.

“You will eat those words, señor.”  Carlos turned to his companion and spat out.  “Deal the cards.”

Buck smiled softly, glad that even his meager store of Spanish was able to get through to this jackass.  He won that hand, which was a good thing.  The stakes rose as the dealer dealt more cards, and the thirteen pesos he had had left would have been gone in two hands.  Buck won the next hand and the next one.  Two of the four men bowed out of the game, but stayed at the table to watch the proceedings.  Buck’s pile of coins was more than half of Don Carlos’ pile by the time just the two of them were playing, and by now, most of those in the tavern were aware of the ‘duel’ between ‘Don Guillermo’ and Don Carlos.  Buck occasionally glanced behind him, aware that there were some of the rancher’s men circulating among the patrons of the tavern.  That was one of the few times he had lost a hand, when he caught a vaquero signing to Don Carlos.  At his protest, Sergeant Garcia ordered Corporal Reyes to escort the man away.   The soldier happily did so, most willing to protect his earnings. 

When the piles of pesos in front of both men was about equal, Don Carlos pulled out a cigar and lit it.  As he dealt, Buck felt and smelled the smoke of the Cuban cigar blowing directly in his face.  “Don Carlos, would you please blow your smoke away from me.”

“Señor, I have no control over the direction of the smoke,” Don Carlos sneered.  He leaned forward and blew again.

Buck coughed and reached over, plucking the cigar from Don Carlos’ mouth, and tossing it to the floor.  “And I, señor, have no control over the direction of the cigar,” Buck replied, his eyes hard and his mouth set with determination.  It was a determination to take this man down a notch. He could only imagine the extent of Don Carlos’ arrogance, but this game had become more than just a means of getting Corporal Reyes a new suit of clothes, it was a test of wills.  Most of his poker games of the past had been contests of skill and luck between he and his buddies, but this was not friendly.  Don Carlos jerked back and stared at Buck, his eyes glittering with hatred.  “How many cards, Don Carlos?” Buck asked calmly. 

“None.” 

Buck dealt himself two cards, discarding two.  He gazed at his hand.  It was fair, but not stellar.  He gazed at his opponent.  The ranchero pushed the entire stack in front of him to the middle of the table.  Buck was startled.  Could the older man have that good a hand?  

“Well, I have put in one hundred pesos.  Will you match the bet?”

Buck studied the man, saw one hand continually drop to the hilt of his sword and then lie on the table.  He saw the hard eyes; cold, glittering hate residing in them.  And Buck realized just what was happening.  Don Carlos hated that he was being beaten, he hated that a stranger was besting him, an American to boot.   Don Carlos wanted to end the game so he could finish him off in a different manner.  Buck counted out fifteen pesos and saw that his stack of money would still equal what Don Carlos had put in the middle of the table.  “Corporal Reyes,” Buck called out, knowing that the corporal would have returned to the tavern by now. 

“Sí, Señor Buck,” Reyes said from across the room. 

Buck was careful to make sure that his cards were hidden.  He turned to Reyes.  “Here are your fifteen pesos.  I appreciate the loan of your money.”

Reyes looked confused, but sighed in relief when Buck smiled and winked.  Then the captain turned back to his opponent and shoved the rest of the coins into the middle of the table.   “I have matched your bet, Don Carlos.  Show your cards.”

Don Carlos laid out his cards.  He had three cups.  Buck laid out his cards.  In the old days, it would have been a full house.  As it was, he had three kings and two coins, easily beating Don Carlos.  He pulled the pile of money over to his side of the table and called again to Corporal Reyes.  “Corporal, will you take this money?  I think Don Carlos has . . . something he wants to do.”   Again, Buck mentally cursed his lack of language skills.  There was much he wished he could say to this man across from him.

“You cheated, that is the only way you could have beat me,” Carlos hissed.  “No one has ever beaten me.”

“No one was . . . brave enough to go against you to win,” Buck replied.  “You are a rooster, who believes he has all of the hens . . . under his hand.”  He watched as Don Carlos’ right hand curled around the hilt of his sword.  Buck backed away from the table and got into a defensive crouch.   Reyes had found a basket and was quickly scooping the money into it.  Buck glanced around, but did not see Don Diego.

Don Carlos whipped out his sword and jumped at Buck, the sword point leveled at the pilot’s midsection.  Buck danced out of the way, even as he heard people gasping and pointing above him.  Then, putting any distractions out of his mind, he shifted his weight, grabbed Don Carlos by his wrist of his sword hand, and then kick-boxed him in the ribs.   With a scream, the rancher jerked back, holding his ribs and cursing.   Buck was in no mood to play honorably.  He reached in with a roundhouse punch that decked the older man, and then he calmly bent down and pulled the sword out of Don Carlos’ now lax hand.   Turning to Sergeant Garcia, he handed him the sword. 

“I do not cheat, by the way, Sergeant,” Buck said to Garcia.  “The money was won fairly.  And except for a few pesos and centavos, it all belongs to Corporal Reyes.” 

“Very well done, Don Guillermo,” an authoritarian voice above him called out. 

Looking up, Buck gasped when he saw a figure in black swing down from the tavern’s balcony on a chandelier.  Zorro? his boyhood memories supplied the name of a fictional hero.  No, can’t be.  Fiction, like Superman.   “Who are you?” he asked, shocked at the apparition from his younger days that seemed to fly down like some dark bird of prey.   

“El Zorro at your service,” the man in black said in English, as he lightly landed in front of the astonished pilot.  “In the matter of cards and self-defense, it seems that you have very little need of my help.  However, I am here on another matter,” Zorro said.   “A mutual friend of ours asked me to watch for your people.  I have been sent to take you to them.  I have the faster horse and time is of the essence.”

“My friends?”  Buck was still reeling at the shock of seeing a comic book hero in front of him in the flesh.

“Yes, señor.  One named Wilma Deering,” Zorro said as he whipped out his sword, pointing it at the corpulent soldier who had been trying to sneak up on the bandit.  “Sergeant, please.  I really have no time to play games with you.  I must get this man to his rendezvous.”

With Buck by his side, Zorro backed to the door and the two men dashed out.  Reyes followed, his basket held tightly in his arms.   Zorro led Buck to the back of the tavern, where a large black horse stood pawing the ground.  “Mount quickly, Buck Rogers.  I will sit behind you.”

Although still in shock at the sight of the costumed man, Buck didn’t even hesitate.  It was obvious that Zorro was here for the purpose that he had stated.  If he said time was of the essence, then that must mean the opening of the vortex could only be held for a short time.   Zorro mounted behind him and gathered the reins. 

“Señor Buck,” Reyes said.  His eyes glowed with gratitude and wonder.  “I cannot thank you enough.  I will never miss Mass and will always put something into the box for the poor.”  

“Sounds like a good idea to me,” Buck said, reaching down and taking a few coins for souvenirs.  “Do you mind?”  Reyes shook his head.  “Dance a dance with Señorita Bastinada for me.  And let Don Diego take care of your money.   He seems pretty smart to me.”

“Sí, he is and a good friend, too,” Reyes said, smiling. 

“We must go,” Zorro reminded the two men. 

“Have a good trip back with your angel friends,” Reyes said. “And again, gracias.”

Buck laughed as Zorro kicked the black stallion into a gallop and swept out of the pueblo.

The gait of the large stallion was smooth and Buck had no problem at all, his body feeling the rhythm of the horse.  He thought he might possibly get to really like this mode of transportation, but not here and not now.

“I hope your friend is still there, Señor Buck.  She seemed very anxious.” 

“If she can, she will,” Buck replied, feeling the wind take his words away almost before he said them.  “Tell Don Diego that I am sorry that I cannot get his clothes back to him.”

“I think that the clothes of an ‘angel’ will be a good trade,” Zorro said with a laugh. 

“Uh, he told you about that?”  Even while he was conversing, Buck was trying to remember the rest of what he knew about the Zorro of his childhood, but it was hard concentrating. 

“Yes,” Zorro replied.  “He does not mind.  He was happy to help in a small way to make Corporal Reyes’ dreams come true.”

“And he will help the good corporal keep the money he has received, right?”

“Yes.”

As they rode, Buck’s curiosity got the best of him.  Here he was riding with a man dressed in black, someone he had thought to be a figment of someone’s imagination, a man disguised in a mask.  “When I was growing up, there were stories of the Spanish American hero called Zorro, a man dressed in a mask like a common bandit, but I thought it was all made up.”

“I have been called many things, but usually not ‘common.’  Maybe in your world, I am fiction, but here I am very real, señor, and fighting to uphold the rights of those who are unable to fight for themselves.”

“I always thought the disguise was a nice choice.  I bet you scare the bejeebers out of your enemies when you sneak up on them.”

Zorro laughed.  “I suppose that is one way to put it.”

Soon they had arrived at the beach and Buck slid off the powerful horse.  He saw Wilma waiting, gesturing for him to hurry.  Behind her, the open mouth of the vortex glowed with a reddish light.  Buck turned to Zorro and clasped his hand.  “Thank you, Señor Zorro.  And please, thank Don Diego for me as well.  Tell him to give the señorita my regards when she and Corporal Reyes are married.”   

“I will.  Now go.  Your own señorita is very, very anxious,” Zorro said with a grin. 

My señorita?” Buck repeated.  “Don’t let Wilma hear you say that,” he added flippantly.   He grinned and then dashed to where Wilma was waiting. 

“About time you made it.  And what in the world are you wearing?” she asked as she took his hand and jerked him toward the portal. 

“Don’t ask.  I’ll explain later,” he said, as they stepped into the center of the vortex and were swallowed up.

Zorro waved, but Buck Rogers and the strange portal were already gone. 

   

 

 

Epilogue
Chapter One
Buck Rogers Contents
Zorro Contents
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