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
“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?”
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
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!
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
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
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
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
“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