CHAPTER NINE----ZORRO ‘S STRATEGY
NOVEMBER 5, 1821
Don Alejandro looked
askance at his son Diego. “Surely, neither you nor the Fox would
neglect taking to task that miserable worm, Ricardo? It has been two
days since his ...disgraceful behavior at your wedding!” Don Alejandro
kept muttering to himself and pacing back and forth in the sala since it
was too cold for them to dine on the patio where they normally had
breakfast. Finally, he sat down next his son. “I assume by your
silence that you are going to permit that raton to insult your wife and
the rest of your family -- he must be firmly dealt with, the sooner, the
better!” The elder de la Vega sighed. “May all the Santos give me
indulgently at his father. “Por favor, of course I shall ‘deal
with’ that ganallo! I believe that this situation requires handling
with an iron fist -- but presented with a leather glove. When the Masked
Avenger and I are finished with Don Ricardo, he will be begging the Fox
to book him passage on the first ship sailing from San Pedro to the
grin reached all the away up to his hairline. “Ah.“ He said somewhat
intrigued by Diego‘s mysterious promise of implementing some kind of
action against Ricardo. “And are you going to reveal your plans to me
or must I wait another forty-eight hours?“
replied in mock severity, “have you not always told me that patience
is a virtue?”
“Ay, yi, yi!”
Don Alejandro raised his eyes heavenward. “May all the Santos give me
strength! Diego, I am a man of action, and I am also thinking of the
“Sí, my father.
There is also a saying that ‘revenge is a dish that is best served
cold.’ Knowing Ricardo as well as I do, right now he is reveling in
the fact that once again his vicious insults and conduct have not
resulted in any unpleasant consequences for him. Well, he shall now reap
what he has sown by his spiteful actions.“
“So, tonight the
Fox has special plans for Señor del’Amo?“
mischievously. “Exactly so!”
Diego told Bernardo
to meet him in the secret room immediately after dinner. As the young de
la Vega transformed himself from the foppish caballero to the heroic
Dark Knight, he told his mozo about his plans to teach Ricardo del'Amo a
Bernardo smiled. He
mimed to Zorro. ‘Good luck! Somehow I do not think that even Zorro can
redeem a twisted person such as Don Ricardo!
does that mean you are unwilling to help Zorro restore a lady's honor?
For shame, Señor!“ the Fox replied in feigned dismay.
‘I will do
whatever I can to aid your damsel in distress! Please, tell me more!’
Bernardo begged the Fox.
“I want you to
post as many special avisos as you possibly can. Here is what I want
written for the first batch of the avisos---”
Bernardo's grin grew
wider and wider as Zorro began dictating the announcements.
“Bueno, my good
friend. And while I am paying a furtive evening visit to the esteemed
Don Ricardo, you shall post the first notice in the pueblo’s town
square. Now, hurry up and get dressed.”
His mozo shook his
head. “’Get dressed?’” Bernardo slashed the air with his right
finger to form the letter “Z.“
“Well, we do not
want anyone discovering yours or Diego’s role in this little
melodrama, do we? You had better hurry! I have heard that the Fox is a
very impatient man! Off you go!“
Tornado seemed to
fly like the fabled Pegasus on this night of another full moon. As they
raced together through the cold and forbidding night, Zorro gazed up at
that Nocturnal Observer known as the moon. Tonight, the earth’s
evening companion hung as if she were suspended on an invisible chain,
glowing like a huge white pearl against the ebony sky.
It was harvest
season and this is when the moon appeared as large and as bold as the
sun. To the Amerindians the moon was a hot, ‘blazing’ object whose
reflected light could drive one mad. On the other hand, to the ancient
Sumerians, who worshipped the moon as the ultimate cool and serene
goddess, she was the true “Mother of the Earth.” By 720 B.C. King
Sargon II ordered that the Moon be worshipped as the Supreme Deity of
the Babylonian people. Even the Hebrew holy site, Mount Sinai, owes its
name to the Babylonian word for the moon "Sin."
Zorro certainly was
not above using the moon’s mystique to his advantage. He was the
source of the rumor that when the Masked Avenger rode his Tornado on the
night of a full moon, he was invulnerable. One afternoon after he had
rescued from slavery an elderly Indian from being kidnapped to work at
the Sonoran tin mines, the grateful man told El Zorro that he was what
the Spanish conquistadores called a “brujo (warlock).”
“Now that I am
very old, my bones always ache and my eyes are beginning to fail me. My
powers are not as strong as they once were. But, you, Mascarado, I can
see that you truly walk in and live by the Light--”
The Fox gently
interrupted him “No, viejo, I have no magical powers; and as for
religion, I shall never abandon my Catholicism.”
The old Indian had
laughed uproariously! “It does not matter how you praise the
Creator,“ the brujo retorted, just as long as you worship the One True
God as the Father of all men! Señor fox, I bless you again in the name
of He who made everything, Known and Unknown, Seen and Unseen. My young
caballero, you already possess the two most important powers in the
Universe - your belief in truth and love. As long as your remain
faithful to those ideals, you shall be invincible!”
As the harvest moon
watched, the Fox directed Tornado through Coalinga Pass towards the
hacienda that Don Ricardo had been renting from Don Rodolfo Perez. Don
Rodolfo‘s estate was located in the opposite direction from the de la
Vega’s hacienda, northwest of the Camino Real. When Zorro arrived at
the rear of the hacienda he was not surprised that it was very easy for
him to enter its grounds. According to Bernardo, who knew the Head
Housekeeper of Don Juan del’Amo’s hacienda in San Francisco, his son
Ricardo Del’Amo had only brought his mozo and two other servants with
him to Señor Perez’s hacienda near the San Gabriel Mission. Zorro
ordered the black stallion to wait for him behind the patio gate.
He tried to remember
the location of Don Rodolfo’s bedroom. “Ah, sí! Don Rodolfo‘s
sleeping quarters were on the second floor in the third bedroom on the
right!” he said quietly. The Fox flicked his leather whip, wrapped it
around the top of the balustrade and pulled himself up. He quickly leapt
over the railing and glided silently down the balcony floor. When he
reached del’Amo’s bedroom, he retrieved a small piece of wire that
he fashioned to pick door locks. But Zorro first wiggled the door handle
and he was surprised to find it unlocked. In one fluid motion he slipped
between the door and a nightstand that stood beside Ricardo’s bed.
When del’Amo unexpectedly rolled over to sleep on his right side -
thankfully the side away from the bedroom door --Zorro had already slid
himself beneath the bed. Ricardo slept on. The Fox stood up and surveyed
As he stared down at
Ricardo’s tufts of coal black hair, Zorro hated him so much at the
moment he would have strangled del'Amo in his sleep. Shrugging off those
temporary appealing thoughts of murder, he bent down to pin the note
that Bernardo had written for him to the side of Ricardo‘s pillowcase.
Ricardo continued to snore.
Before he exited the
bedroom Zorro turned back and jauntily tossed del’Amo a silent salute.
Then he ran out into the hallway to find his way back down to the rear
of the porch to where Tornado was waiting for him. The Fox whistled for
his mount and leapt upon his back. “Well, my four-legged friend, it
will be very interesting to learn about Don Ricardo's reaction to my
little note. Somehow, I do not believe that he shall be amused!“
Tornado whinnied in
agreement as he carried his master rapidly but silently back home. The
silvery moon had just disappeared below the horizon by the time Zorro
returned to his secret cave. He checked his pocket watch and saw it was
nearly midnight. Diego hurriedly changed into his nightshirt and managed
to slide underneath the sheets and snuggle as closely as he could to
Moneta without waking her.
NOVEMBER 6, 1821
THE FOLLOWING MORNING
Don Ricardo Hector
Diaz y del'Amo slowly swung his legs from his bed to the floor. He
yawned contentedly and then stood up to stretch. When he dropped his
arms to his side after he performed his usual morning exercises, his
hand touched a note addressed to him lying on the pillowcase, so he sat
down on the bed to read it.
“MADRE DE DIOS!
May all the saints give me strength!“ Ricardo yelled after he read the
As Ricardo threw on
a red velvet robe over his white cotton nightshirt, he rushed out into
the hallway yelling for the servants. When his Indian mozo arrived,
Ricardo asked him if he had seen anyone else enter his room last night.
“No, Senor, we
always go to our own quarters very soon after you have retired for the
“And no one
noticed the intruder enter my bedroom? DIOS! I could have been
killed.“ Once again, Jorge, DID YOU SEE ANYONE ENTER THIS HOUSE. AFTER
I WENT TO BED?“ Ricardo backhanded the Indian as hard as he could. “Insolente!”
“Padrone, I have
told you the truth!” Rather than risk further physical abuse, Jorge
remained on his knees and did not dare to look into his master’s eyes.
Don Ricardo yelled.
“Leave me alone for a little while! I shall be down shortly for
Jorge fled to the
relative safety of the kitchen. “Dios! These Spaniards!” he said
quietly in their native tongue, to the other female servants, who were
members of his tribe.
“Ah, no, Jorge;
not all Spaniards are so cruel. Don Ricardo’s father is gentle and
kind. But I do not know who or what can explain his son’s anger!”
narrowed. “I can. He hates Señor Zorro and the de la Vegas. His hate
has driven him mad. He spat on the floor in disgust. “A curse upon Don
Ricardo’s head!” The other servants nodded in silent agreement.
Del’Amo sat on his
bed and reread the anonymous note, desperately looking for a clue,
perhaps in the writing style, the grammar - anything that might reveal
the identity of the coward who wrote this note!
He read it aloud:
“ATENCION! ATENCION! IT IS TIME FOR THE PEOPLE OF LOS ANGELES TO KNOW
THE TRUTH ABOUT DON RICARDO DEL’AMO. HE IS NO GENTLEMAN! ALL OF HIS
EVIL DEEDS AND TRICKERY WILL SOON BE REVEALED!”
As he ate some
frijoles rellenos and tortillas with his imported chicory coffee from
New Orleans, he pondered if anyone in his social circle was capable of
playing such a foul trick. Who, I wonder, is clever enough to have
plotted and launched such a bold plan? Perhaps the gentleman in Monterey
whom I cheated at cards a fortnight ago. No, too old. If I were to
demand satisfaction upon the field of honor, the viejo would die from
“But, wait a
minute! I know exactly who did this!” he said aloud as he snapped his
fingers. He yelled again for Jorge to brush his best suit while he
shaved and then Ricardo wet his silk handkerchief with some of Anna
Maria’s favorite scent. He dressed quickly and as he rode down the
Camino Real toward Los Angeles, Ricardo rehearsed exactly what he was
going to say to his tormentor.
Señor, I am
accountable to no man for my behavior, not even to my father!
Ricardo thought as he rode his favorite mount, Sky Fever. No man
rules me, my fine young hidalgo, and you will soon learn that lesson
just as my family and servants did long ago!
His anger increased
the closer he approached Los Angeles. “Oh, Diego, my former rival in
the affairs of the heart, you truly do not realize with whom you are
dealing. And I will not be satisfied with a private apology. I am going
to humiliate you and your family before the entire pueblo. You know, I
am really looking forward to our little meeting later this morning. Let
the games begin!” Ricardo’s shouted into the crisp early winter air.