The Promise

by

 

Gail Manfre

 

 

 

CHAPTER TWELVE 

 

CAPITAN’S FURY PART II

 

Garcia’s friend sagged in his chair and briefly covered his eyes with his hands as Diego grimaced visibly. May Jesus have mercy on her soul, he prayed. Another young lady’s life cruelly extinguished by the diabolical Glorioso. Patience man, he reminded himself. Be calm and remember your surroundings because the sergeant would not expect Diego to become so distraught over a ‘barmaid‘.

“Forgive me, Don Diego. I did not mean to upset you,” Garcia whispered.

“You neither upset nor offended me, sergeant. Probably something I ate earlier today. But you have more to tell me, do you not?” Young de la Vega said as he poured another mug of wine for Garcia.

"Oh, sí. Don Diego, I must tell you that I am very disgusted with what Capitán Glorioso is doing here with the Posada. I do not care at all for the women in this place," the sergeant used the term “women” as if it were a curse.

De la Vega smiled wanly. He then tried to inject some levity into the gloomy tone of their conversation. "I am glad that you feel exactly the same as I do. You know I heard that Zorro is trying to do something about closing down La Casa?”

"Sí, Don Diego. El Zorro is quite a thorn in the Commandante’s side. Glorioso is driving all of the lancers crazy with his constant yelling and screaming about how he will capture Zorro very soon. Glorioso is very angry with the Fox because he tried to kidnap several of his best customers. And then the other night, that rascal of a Zorro personally delivered a threat to the Capitán himself.”

“What happened?” Diego encouraged Garcia, glad to see that his old friend’s mood had changed for the better.

The sergeant began to chuckle but quickly smothered his mirth by covering his mouth with one of his massive hands. “El Zorro tied up some poor sailor and threw him into La Casa for all the customers to see!”

“No, that diablo!” Diego replied in a convincingly mocking tone, “tell me, when are you going to capture that dastardly fellow?”

Sergeant Garcia whispered to Don Diego. “Ha! The only reason I want to capture him would be to stop the capitán‘s bellowing! I will tell you something else. I feel ... that I need a bath after I leave this place!”

“Good for you, sergeant.” Diego slapped Garcia on his back but also noticed the worried look continued to darken Garcia’s normally jovial features. “How else can I be of service to you, sergeant?“

Garcia swiveled his neck to see exactly how many customers were with earshot. “One never knows,“ he muttered conspiratorially to Don Diego. “The capitán is planning to levy some new taxes very soon, perhaps as soon as tomorrow.”

Diego’s scowl returned. Somehow, he knew Glorioso would ignore Zorro’s latest threats. It seemed that evil never rested and the Fox always had to adapt to its many shapes and forms, in this case, Capitán Glorioso’s Machiavellian ideas.

“Forgive me, sergeant. I suddenly remembered I have an appointment elsewhere.” Diego turned away from the sergeant so Garcia could not see the torment on his face as his thoughts turned once again toward the violent end of Carlita Soto.

“Gracias, Don Diego. Buenos tardes!” the sergeant at last somewhat mollified that he at last had wine to drink and not that “stuff one used for bathing, water!“

“Buenos tardes, Sergeant Garcia!” the caballero called out.

Don Diego was secretly pleased that Zorro was having such an effect upon the Commandante’s ego. He also knew from the gossip in the pueblo that Glorioso’s “August and September. Since El Zorro had conducted his personal conversation with Dons Hector, Lorenzo and Cornelio, they obviously had told their friends to stay away from La Casa. So the Fox would continue to tighten the economic vise around the Capitan’s most lucrative source of income, especially with the news Garcia had just given him.

Diego casually surveyed the market place of the Pueblo on this fine warm afternoon in October. The murder of Carlita Soto-- and he was certain the capitán did kill her-- clouded his mind with guilt. The wind had shifted since he had his drink with Garcia at La Casa and it was now blowing from the north, heralding cooler temperatures for this evening. He untied his palomino from the railing and climbed into the saddle. To his right, two lancers were nailing up a new aviso to the Pueblo’s bulletin post. Ai, yi yi! Better take the time to read the latest news.

The writing was large enough for him to read clearly from on horseback.

AVISO

BE IT KNOWN THAT ON THIS TWENTIETH DAY OF OCTOBER, IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD EIGHTEEN HUNDRED AND TWENTY ONE, THAT THE COMMANDANTE 0F THE PUEBLO DE LOS ANGELES HAS DECREED THAT A SPECIAL HARVEST AND INVENTORY TAX BE LEVIED UPON ALL PERSONS IN THE DISTRICT, TO WIT:

PEONS SHALL PAY ONE REALE PER PIECE OF LAND OR PLOT FARMED OR ITS EQUIVALENT VALUE IN PRODUCE.

TRADESMEN SHALL PAY AN INVENTORY OF ONE PESO PER SHOP AND ONE PESO PER ONE THOUSAND PESOS IN VALUE OF THEIR GOODS. VALUE OF SAID INVENTORY’S GOODS SHALL BE DETERMINED BY THE COMMANDANTE.

DONS [HIDALGOS] SHALL PRESENT TO THE TAX AUTHORITY FOUR PESOS PER FIFTY HORSES, TEN PESOS PER ONE HUNDRED CATTLE. ANOTHER AD VALOREM TAX OF TEN PESOS PER ONE THOUSAND ACRES OF PASTURE SHALL ALSO BE PAID SIMULTANEOUSLY WITH THE AFOREMENTIONED TAXES.

WRITTEN AND DECREED ON THIS TWENTIETH DAY OF EIGHTEEN HUNDRED AND TWENTY ONE. GOD BLESS KING FERDINAND VII, THE IMPERIAL RULER OF THE COLONY OF ALTA CALIFORNIA.

ALL TAXES ARE DUE AND SHALL BE COLLECTED ON NOVEMBER 3RD, 1821 AND BECOME DELINQUENT AFTER 12 NOON ON NOVEMBER 3RD. PENALTIES FOR FAILURE TO PAY THE AFORESAID TAXES BY STATED DATE SHALL INCLUDE, BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO, IMPRISONMENT AT HARD LABOR, ADDITIONAL FINES AND CORPORAL PUNISHMENT.

 

SIGNED THIS 20TH DAY OF OCTOBER, 1821

THE COMMANDANTE OF THE PUEBLO

DE LOS ANGELES

CAPITÁN JUAN GLORIOSO

VISCONDE DE ESTRADA

 

MADRE DE DIOS! Diego was livid. As always, the poorest of the poor would suffer the most and he, El Zorro, was at least partly to blame for this latest turn of events. No, Bernardo is right. The Commandante is responsible for this chaos, not me. Diego prodded his palomino into a full gallop and headed home.

ZZZZZZZZZZ

 

Señorita Selena de Rojas and her dueña/criada, Amontildar, were doing their usual weekly shopping in the Pueblo de Los Ángeles when the soldiers were affixing Capitán Glorioso’s latest Aviso to the town plaza message post. Selena had just alighted from her carriage when she heard Don Diego de la Vega reading the message aloud. She clenched her fists as he continued to read the Aviso to the small crowd of people who had gathered around him. Don Diego was so blinded by anger that he did not even hear Selena call out to him. He sharply wheeled the palomino around, kicked the horse in its side and galloped from the marketplace.

Selena decided to pay the Commandante a surprise visit. I have grown tired of Glorioso’s sadistic tactics in dealing with our people. Perhaps, for one last time, I can appeal to his honor and as an officer and a gentleman. The problem was that Selena knew Capitán Glorioso was an extremely haughty and sadistic pig, but she felt compelled to speak on behalf of those pobrecitos whom the Commandante so utterly despised. She walked up to the gates of the Cuartel and asked Corporal Reyes, who was on duty for permission to see the Comandante.

Corporal Reyes bowed slightly to her. “Buenos dias, Señorita. May I extend my regrets regarding the death of your father?“

“Gracias, Corporal Reyes.“ Selena gave him one of her warmest smiles.

But the lancer was struck dumb by her kindness and forgot the lady’s request. Ai, yi yi! Such a fine looking woman!

“What goes on here, corporal?” Sergeant Garcia’s baritone voice boomed, thoroughly startling poor Reyes. Then he turned quickly to face Selena. “Oh, your pardon, Señorita de Rojas. I did not know it was you Corporal Reyes was ah, bothering. How may I help you?” he said while narrowing his eyes at the clueless as usual Reyes.

“Gracias, Sergeant Garcia, but Corporal Reyes was just about to inquire if I could see the Commandante for a few minutes.”

“Come with me señorita and I will personally forward your request to the Capitán myself.”

She curtsied slightly, an action that caused Sergeant Garcia to remove his hat. As for the Corporal, he remained frozen in place, completely transfixed by her smile.

Garcia knocked on the door of Glorioso's office.

"Well, what is it?" shouted the Commandante.

Sergeant Garcia entered and focused his attention at a spot on the wall above and behind Glorioso. “With your kind permission, Capitán, Señorita Selena de Rojas would like to speak with you, sir."

"Oh, would she? What is the nature of her business?"

"I am sorry Commandante, but I forgot to ask her."

“Idioso, estupido!” Glorioso yelled at him. “Can you not do anything right?" The capitán shrugged his shoulders. "Very well then, permission is granted for the señorita to enter the Cuartel."

Señorita Selena de Rojas answered Capitán Glorioso's order to enter his office and waited for him to stop reading the documents that were spread across his desk. However, he refused to raise his head and acknowledge her presence. Selena sighed to herself. Very well, Commandante, two people can play the same game. I shall not let your insolent attitude rattle me.

"Buenos dias, Capitán Glorioso. Thank you for agreeing to see me today. I realize that you are very busy."

"Then why are you here, señorita? A lady of your breeding and background does not belong in a military cuartel. I assume that this matter you wish to discuss with me is of vital importance?" Capitán Glorioso finally made eye contact with Señorita Rojas, but not before he raked his gaze over her voluptuous form several times.

“Commandante, may I please sit down?"

"Of course, Señorita, but please get to the point."

"I noticed your Aviso in the Plaza regarding the levying of new taxes. Commandante, I can understand the government’s need for increased revenue, but surely you cannot wring any more money from the peons in Los

the poor people. Surely, the dons and tradesmen can afford to pay more taxes. I know that I can." She waited calmly for what seemed like an eternity for the Commandante's response.

Capitán Glorioso shook his head. "Señorita, you should confine yourself to matters of your household which is befitting a lady of the Grandee class. You

must leave military and civil matters to the Administrado, namely, me, who is qualified to handle such affairs.” Glorioso leaned back in his chair and then added. “I am afraid that as a woman, you simply do not understand either politics or economics! Now, if you please, Señorita de Rojas, I have important military business that I must attend to. Buenos tardes,” the Commandante said, without looking up from the mound of paperwork on his desk.

“I see,” Selena tersely replied. And this ‘mere woman’ will continue to aid El Zorro in his quest to eliminate both you and your filthy business, mon capitaine ... she thought acidly.

END OF CHAPTER TWELVE

 

 

 

Chapter Thirteen
Chapter One
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