The Gift

 

 

CHAPTER 12 - TRIAL AND ERROR

 

 

Bernardo kept watch while Zorro curled his whip around Ricardo’s balcony and quickly climbed up and over the railing. Although the Fox knew that neither Ricardo nor Anna Maria was home, he did not want to be seen by any of the servants until after he had left his calling card. He sprinted inside del’Amo’s bedroom and attached the aviso to the bedspread. If one of the servants had not left a window open, Zorro would have never seen something shining in a corner of the bedroom.

Curious, he touched the object and held it up in the moonlight attempting to read as much of the document as possible. It was two letters, each one sealed with the gold, silver and red del’Amo family crest, and with the Aragon y Castile royal seal of Spain. [No, the papers were actually an original and one duplicate of the same document. BY THE THREE MARIA'S!] he said to himself. [Why, that scheming and devious worm! I shall take the duplicate for this information shall prove very useful in the future!] Zorro quickly stashed the papers inside his banda. Before departing he whipped out his saber and deeply slashed a “Z” across Ricardo’s mahogany headboard.

 

[[[[ZZZZ]]]]

 

The Honorable Romero Luis Madrigal Vasca, Supremo Magistrado of Alta California, listened with mounting distaste to Don Juan Estevan del'Amo‘s suggestion that the Judge consider not presiding over the trial of Don Diego de la Vega. Don Juan further hinted that he could offer some grandes sobornas to Judge Vasca if he would dismiss Ricardo del'Amo charges against Don Diego. Finally, he pleaded with the Judge not to impose any harsh penalties upon Ricardo for his son's" youthful misbehavior!"

Judge Vasca cleared his throat before being as blunt and direct as possible with Don Ricardo’s father. “Senor, it is my considered opinion that the gente de razon here in California are so arrogant that they honestly believe their class is above the law. I know Ricardo by reputation. And although I loathe your son’s waste of money and his future in the witless pursuits of wenching, drinking and gambling, I can render an impartial decision regarding this matter. Remove yourself from my presence before I incarcerate you for attempting to bribe a Royal Agent of King Ferdinand VII! GET OUT!”

Don Juan’s face froze in a grimace. “Excellency, thank you for your advice. Hasta la luego.”

The Judge shrugged away his concern for Ricardo del’Amo and began to sort through the complaint against Diego de la Vega.

 

[[[[ZZZZ]]]]

 

Corporal Reyes and Sergeant Garcia pushed their way through the crowd surrounding the Town Square’s bulletin board. " Oh, no!" Garcia said aloud. “I see that Zorro has once again been very busy!”

“What does the poster say, Sergeant Garcia?“

“Baboso! If you remain quiet I can read it!” Garcia retrieved the parchment from the post and read it aloud. “SEÑOR DEL’AMO, YOU ARE THE ONE WHO IS GUILTY OF SLANDER AND LIBEL! I, EL ZORRO, AM THE AUTHOR OF THESE AVISOS!”

Of course he posted these messages, Sergeant! See, there is Zorro’s ‘Z’ at the bottom! Why would Don Ricardo think otherwise?”

Garcia squeezed his eyes shut in disbelief. “Perhaps he also thinks that Don Diego is El Zorro, baboso! Run along now, Corporal, and see that everything is ready for Judge Vasca!”

“Don Diego is El Zorro! That is the stupidest thing that I have ever heard, Sergeant!”

“VAMOOSE, CORPORAL!”

[Working with Corporal Reyes makes me feel my twenty years in the King’s Army are a prison sentence and not a career!] Garcia sighed to himself...

 

[[[[ZZZZ]]]]

 

“Alejandro, may I have another word with you before the proceedings begin?” Don Valentin Posedar inquired politely.

“Certainly, Valentin. You look puzzled.”

“Sí, mi viejo. When I asked Diego whether not he is guilty of these crimes, he replied that ‘Zorro wrote those inflammatory remarks. Everyone knows that!”

Don Alejandro shrugged. “I fail to see your point.”

“It is nothing tangible, my friend; I just do not think that Diego is being completely honest with me.”

“Regarding these absurd charges? I stand by my son, Valentin! Diego did not write those avisos!“

“Don Valentin,” Diego’s baritone voice interrupted their conversation, “you have the de la Vega word of honor regarding that subject!”

Señor Posedar bowed slightly. “Of course, Don Diego! And I promise you that between Judge Vasca’s honesty and Spanish Law, Señor del’Amo will deeply regret ever filing his lawsuit!“

 

[[[[ ZZZZ]]]]

 

“Are you sure that you are comfortable, mi preciosa?” he whispered to Moneta as he helped her sit down in the Posada de Los Angeles, which was serving as a temporary courtroom.

Both of them heard the crowd’s whispers and saw several hateful glances aimed particularly at Señora de la Vega.

Moneta’s huge brown eyes clouded over. “Oh, Diego, I AM trying to be brave, but people can be so cruel. And we both know how depraved Ricardo truly is! He twists everything that is good and beautiful into --”

Diego deliberately made a grand sweeping bow as he grasped her hand and kissed it tenderly. “Please do not worry so!”

Turning to look around to see if any of their friends came to offer them moral support, Diego saw Don Nacho and Doña Luisa Torres, together with their daughter, Elena and her husband, Benito.

“God will bless you both, Diego and Moneta!” Doña Luisa told her godchild.

“Gracias.” Moneta replied.

Don Diego whispered “My dearest wife, remember that you will have our baby in less than six months-”

“Diego!” She caressed his face. “You said.. our baby!

He grinned. “Exactly so! And I dare anyone to state otherwise!”

Don Valentin tugged at his client’s sleeve. “Are you ready, Don Diego?”

“Of course.”

“Bueno!” his attorney nodded.

“All rise! The Honorable Judge Romero Luis Vasca is now present in the courtroom!” Lieutenant Hernan Gonzales, the Judge’s personal adjutant, declared.

“Be seated.” Judge Vasca said tonelessly. “The rules of these proceedings’ decorum, which I have previously discussed with both parties to this matter and their respective counsel, are now in force. Señor de Sevilla, attorney for the plaintiff Señor del’Amo, please call your first witness.”

“Gracias, Your Honor. We have only two individuals who will give testimony, your Honor. The first witness I shall now present is a former servant of the de la Vega hacienda. Will Señorita Mariana Colon come forward?”

Lieutenant Gonzales swore in the señorita. Don de Sevilla smiled to put her at ease.

“Señorita, the only question I have for you is this: do you know who wrote these horrible accusations regarding Ricardo del’Amo?”

“Oh, sí! I saw those posters in the de la Vega library! I-I went there to clean up the room after Don Alejandro and Don Diego asked me to do so!”

The spectators murmured their disapproval.

Don Diego whispered to his attorney. “She is a habitual liar and she was caught stealing from the household accounts by Señora Crescencia, head of our servants.”

‘Very good Diego, but we shall need to have Crescencia testify--”

“Counsel for the defense will please remain quiet while a witness is testifying!” Judge Vasca said sharply.

“Perdon, Your Honor!”

‘”Ah, one more question, Señorita, if you please! Is this the poster that you saw?”

“Sí, sí!”

“No further questions, Your Honor!”

Judge Vasca looked askance at the girl. Something disturbed him about her. The young woman was edgy, nervous. “Señorita, I am going to remind you that you are still under oath. You are quite certain that you are telling the truth?”

‘Sí, Your Honor, I know what I saw!”

Vasca frowned slightly and told Señor Posedar to cross-examine her.

Don Diego quickly scribbled a note with a quill and gave it to his counsel. Don Valentin smiled. “Señorita Colon, oh, but may I call you Mariana?”

“Oh, sí, señor!”

“Mariana, I am very sad for you and do you know why?“ He saw the fright in her green eyes and realized that she knew that she had been trapped. ‘”Did you not just lie a moment ago?”

“Objection, Your Honor--”

“Sit down, counsel for the plaintiff. Judge Vasca leaned forward. “Señorita, you must answer the question!”

“N-no.”

Don Valentin scowled at the diminutive girl. “Last chance, Señorita Colon!”

“I have said all that I am going to say.”

‘Very well. If it will please the Court, I should like to call Sergeant Garcia to the stand.”

Señor de Sevilla rose to object but Judge Vasca ordered him to sit down. Then he called both lawyers to the Bench.

“I am inclined to rule in your favor,” he told de Sevilla, but in the interest of justice, I shall permit defendant’s counsel to present rebuttal evidence now rather than later, as is proper procedure.”

“Gracias, Your Honor! I call for Sergeant Demetrio Lopez Garcia to step forward!” Don Diego’s attorney told Lieutenant Gonzalez.

“Sí, Your Excellency, what is it you wish to know?”

“Sergeant Garcia, were you called to the de la Vega hacienda almost two weeks ago?”

“Sí, Don Valentin!”

Señor Posedar paced the courtroom before continuing his examination of the good sergeant. “Why were you summoned to their hacienda?”

“Well, Don Alejandro and Don Diego wanted to bait a trap for Señorita Colon. Their Head of the Servants, Señora Crescencia, had noticed a goodly sum of money was missing from the household account. The Señora had earlier seen the Señorita removing some coins from the desk in Don Alejandro’s library.“

“No, he lies!” Don Ricardo yelled at Sergeant Garcia. “Your Honor, he is a longtime friend of the de la Vegas! Garcia would say and do anything to help them!”

Garcia looked at Judge Vasca and sighed. “I am only speaking the truth, Your Excellency.”

 

 

Chapter Thirteen
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