The Promise

by

 

Gail Manfre

 

 

 

Chapter Eleven 

THE CAPITAN’S FURY

 

Word of Zorro’s robbery and explicit threat to the three dons rapidly spread throughout the Pueblo de Los Angeles, and slowly the other dons began to avoid La Casa. Profits for the months of August and September were practically non-existent. Carlita Soto was thus forced to tell the Commandante this unwelcome news before he performed the usual accounting. Bah! Glorioso has nothing to complain about, she thought to herself. After all, he gets a good share of the property taxes, while I have only earned seven pesos during the past fortnight and this was during the local dons’ annual exportation of hides! Of course, he will blame my mother and me, Carlita mentally shivered.

“What do you mean the business has showed no profits since early August? Have you and your mother been trying to hide money from me again?” Glorioso’s voice thundered.

Carlita shrank from him. “N-no, mi capitán! It is just ... the wealthier men have been avoiding La Casa. The dons ... are not ‘enjoying the girls’ company’ often as they used to.”

“And I believe I know why, Carlita. One word, one man...Zorro!”

“Si,” Carlita responded dreamily. Like every other woman in the area she thought that Zorro was not a criminal, just a handsome and dashing rogue.

He boxed her ears. “Filthy puta! Get out of my sight! That man is a wanted outlaw!”

Carlita ran downstairs and selected a corner to sulk in, which was easy to find since now only a half dozen men from the Pueblo dared to visit the Posada. No one was more startled than she was when the door to the inn burst open and a wild-eyed sailor fell onto the floor. He was bound and gagged and was wearing a navy blue jacket that sported a large “Z” etched into the fabric.

“Zorro!” Several of the inn’s customers shouted and crossed themselves superstitiously. “Ay Yi! Yi!”

Two of the waiters helped untie the sailor. “Look, Carlita! Here is a note from El Zorro to the Commandante!”

Glorioso had heard the uproar and charged down the stairs. What in the name of Heaven is going on here?” he shouted.

Carlita swaggered up to the capitán. “It appears that the Fox has been ‘talking with the customers again.’ Here a message that is addressed to you!”

He snatched it from her hands and unrolled the note.

“Read it aloud, Capitán Glorioso!” said Don Stefano, whose face had turned the color of faded parchment. “I, for one am interested in what the Fox has to say.”

Despite his public display of bravado, Glorioso cringed. I shall have to comply or they will believe me to be weak. He cleared his throat and said:

“Beware Commandante Glorioso. Your despicable business has so far escaped physical retribution. This ‘trussed up’ gift of mine is a warning to you that I shall do whatever is necessary to persuade men to avoid La Casa and thus ruin you. Anyone who continues to patronize your La Casa does so at his extreme personal risk. And then I shall come for you, mi capitán!”

The missive was signed with a large florid “Z.” and then with the outlaw’s name, EL ZORRO.

“HOW DARE HE!” The Commandante fumed.

Don Stefano had seen enough. He slowly rose from his table and bid good night to his drinking compadres. I do not wish to tempt the Fox into doing the same thing to me. Aloud, he said “I am leaving Capitán Glorioso and I am never returning to this establishment!” Visibly shaken, Don Stefano rushed through La Casa’s door and into the plaza.

Carlita threw caution to the wind and decided to needle Glorioso.   “El Zorro dares because he can!”

Glorioso grabbed Carlita by her long black hair and dragged her, screaming curses at him back upstairs. “Now, my young insolent girl, you shall finally learn who is your lord and master! Come here!”

“NO!” Carlita saw the whip in his hand and knew that he meant not just to teach her a lesson. The commandante’s eyes were as rabid as a wild animal. She looked around for some object, anything to defend herself. Teresa Soto’s daughter managed to bite his hand as Glorioso attempted to cover her mouth.

“OUCH! Diablita! You will truly wish you had never been born!“ the commandante painfully growled.

There was just one avenue of escape possible and she began moving to the opposite side of the room.

“Stay still!” he ordered as he cracked the whip closer and closer to her face.

“I would rather die than remain here as your slave!”

Glorioso smiled evilly. “Your death can be easily arranged, Carlita! Come here this instant and I promise you that your demise will quick!”

The young prostitute prayed fervently. Blessed Virgin, forgive me for what I am about to do. It was now or never. Carlita bolted for the open window and threw herself from the second story of La Casa. Commandante Glorioso heard the sickening thud of her body striking the ground. He then calmly went downstairs through the kitchen entrance and pressed his hand against her neck. She was still alive, but her eyes had a glassy far away look. The capitán cradled her head on his lap not from pity but to have the pleasure of watching her die. Carlita obliged him minutes later by becoming limp on his arms. As he placed her body back down on the ground, Glorioso looked up to see a pair of lancers assigned to keep the patrons in order running up to help.

“The señorita was drunk and she fell from her bedroom window, is that not so, Corporal Taquez? Eh, Private Mariano?” Glorioso stated firmly.

Corporal Taquez knew a superior officer’s order when he heard one. “Of course, mi capitán!” The corporal nudged Mariano’s rib cage with his escopeta.

‘Sí, Commandante! I-it was an accident!” Mariano quickly agreed.

“Bueno.” Glorioso glared at each man making sure that the lancers understood the implicit peril in in disobeying the capitán’s words.

“Take the puta’s remains to Padre Jose Fuego at the church. Tell him I will pay for her funeral mass and grave.”

“At once, mi capitán!” The lancers quickly carried Carlita Soto’s body towards the Church.

Back in his office, Glorioso brooded over his response to the Fox’s latest effort to foil his business. Obviously, I need to take more draconian measures. That puta solved a sticky problem for me by committing suicide, saves me the trouble of paying someone to eliminate her. He popped his bullwhip several more times in his office. Glorioso loved the way the oiled, iron imbedded leather cut through the air. But he especially derived the utmost pleasure in flogging a helpless peon’s bare back.

The capitán sent for a lancer to forward a message to his partner in crime, Señor Ulloa. The Marquis of Granada would certainly support him in any new tax he drafted, for the marquis was as greedy as Glorioso. Let the dons refuse to utilize his female employees’’ ‘services,’ he murmured as he stroked his silver streaked hair. He would injure the wealthy gentlemen in their one true Achilles’ heel, their purse strings. Glorioso chuckled at his ingenuity. Why not squeeze the poor as well as the rich? Money is money no matter who pays the taxes!

 

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

 

Sergeant Garcia was sitting morosely in the Posada [no, La Casa,] he mentally corrected himself. Ever since Capitán Glorioso purchased the inn from Señor Marco, the sergeant’s source of free wine had literally dried up. If it were not for the generosity of Don Romero and his good friend Don Diego he probably would never know what decent wine tasted like for a long time. Garcia hunched his shoulders over a mug of what he considered the most unappetizing of all, water. Just another dull and unpleasant day in this soldier’s life ...

“My friend, you appear to be in need of a drink and some companionship” said a familiar voice above him.

“Don Diego! Welcome, please sit down!” Garcia was ecstatic at seeing the familiar face of best friend, Diego de la Vega.

De la Vega picked up the sergeant’s mug. “Water? You are drinking water?”

“Shhh. Not so loud, Don Diego. I do not want everyone in here to know that I...well, you see,” Garcia looked mournfully at his friend.

Don Diego held up his hand. “Allow me sergeant, I understand perfectly.“ He waved towards a waitress who promptly appeared with a large bottle of wine and two new glasses. Don Diego puffed on his cigar and casually observed his friend. The sergeant was possibly more uncomfortable sitting in La Casa then he was. Sergeant Garcia ‘s eyes constantly darted from side to side while he was drinking his wine. As the caballero lifted up his glass, Señora Teresa approached their table.

"Buenos dias, señores. May I sit down with you?" Señora Teresa Soto asked in a throaty, husky voice.

Diego glanced over at Sergeant Garcia. His friend was now sweating profusely and sputtered into his glass of wine. “I-I would rather ...”

"No, gracias. We have everything we need for our pleasure right here at our table,” Don Diego replied as he continued to smoke his cigar, hoping that Teresa Soto was more intelligent than her daughter was. However, she refused to take no for an answer. The La Casa employee focused her attention on Sergeant Garcia, who in turn, blushed deeply.

"Surely Señor de la Vega, the good sergeant will buy me a drink," Señora Soto stated in a sultry voice as she stood between the two men and placed her arm on Garcia’s shoulder.

Diego saw that she knew perfectly well that Garcia had no money and was not remotely interested in anything she had to offer.

The caballero tapped the ash from his cigar onto the Posada's floor. "Señora, I must ask you once again to please leave,” Diego reached out and removed her other arm from the table. She muttered a curse underneath her breath.

"Well, a lady can certainly take a hint when she is not wanted!" Señora Teresa turned away and rushed from their table.

"I thought she was never going to leave!" said Sergeant Garcia. "Thank you very much, Don Diego! the rotund lancer checked yet again over his shoulder to see if anyone might be listening to his conversation. “May I tell you something in total confidence?"

Since the good but somewhat less than discerning sergeant had always been a reliable source of useful information, Diego ordered yet another bottle of wine for Garcia.

“You have the appearance of a man struggling with a rather knotty problem, Sergeant. Perhaps I can be of some assistance?”

Garcia hunched his massive frame over his wine and began talking in a voice so low and tremulous that Don Diego had to practically touch shoulders with the sergeant to hear him.

“Some of the soldiers in the Cuartel are saying the commandante murdered Carlita Soto,” the sergeant whispered confidently. “Every soldier in the cuartel knows how badly the commandante treats the women who work for him at the posada.”

Don Diego almost dropped his cigar from his mouth. “Carlita Soto is dead? “ The young de la Vega was incredulous. By the Virgin, Glorioso is literally getting away with murder...

“Si, Don Diego. Capitán Glorioso has told every soldier the señorita jumped from her window, but I ...we.... believe she was thrown to her death.”

 

END OF CHAPTER ELEVEN

 

 

 

Chapter Twelve
Chapter One
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