Reyes Takes a Vacation;
A Crossover in 4 and 1/2 parts.
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.
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
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
“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.
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
“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
“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.”
Buck was still reeling at the shock of seeing a comic book hero
in front of him in the flesh.
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
“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
“Yes,” Zorro replied.
“He does not mind. He
was happy to help in a small way to make Corporal Reyes’ dreams come
“And he will help the good corporal keep the
money he has received, right?”
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
“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.”
“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.”
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.
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.