TARGET: EL ZORRO
leapt up the stairs leading to the secret room. He was so preoccupied with
Selena and their unexpected romantic encounter, when he changed into his
nightshirt and looked into his bedroom mirror he saw the silk mask still
lying half-fastened around his neck. Ai, yi yi! Her skin was so supple,
so soft... he remembered wistfully... by Saint Teresa, I am
enchanted by her!
tapped three times on his door in their private code and Diego responded
with two knocks. Entering, his mozo placed a tray with a cup of hot
chocolate on his nightstand.
are home early. Is everything all right? Bernardo signed.
exhaled slowly. “Yes and ... no. I visited Señorita de Rojas tonight.
and you were right, she did indeed reproach the Commandante regarding his
waved his arms. Not good, my master. I believe the capitán hates
women, all women. If the Señorita continues to defy him....
completely agree with your excellent assessment, Bernardo. He will
arrest her if he considers her ‘suggestion’ as ‘interference‘ and
God only knows the limits of his cruelty. And that is precisely what I
fear because Selena is very stubborn and not afraid of Glorioso.”
master drained the cup of chocolate and looked thoughtful. “Tomorrow,
Zorro will ride to all of the peons’ homes inside the de la Vega rancho
that he can reach and distribute pesos to each family. I will handle the
tradesmen later. But the first thing I must do is to plant an idea in my
father’s head. When I awaken I shall dictate a note for Don Alejandro de
smiled to himself as he went to his quarters in the servants’ wing of
the de la Vega hacienda. My master has that dreamy, wonderful sparkle
in his eyes now when discusses the señorita. Don Alejandro is right. It
is high time for Diego to marry and have sons. Fate has apparently decided
to take charge of the matters at hand. Is not young love truly glorious?
Selena de Rojas was awake at sunrise as it painted the nearby hills a pale
mauve and then gradually bathed the mountainsides with the golden light of
dawn. She had dreamed endlessly throughout the night about the Masked
Avenger being with her in this very room, holding her, kissing and
caressing her face. Virgin Mary! ..I have never experienced such
feelings before. How could Zorro’s mere gaze make my heart turn to
butter? Who is he? Yet, when I was in his arms he seemed very familiar. But
it was El Zorro and not Diego de la Vega who was in her bedroom last
night. Selena glanced at the window. The sunlight illuminated a splash of
color on the ledge. It was a single red rose, still wet from the
morning’s dew. Selena deeply inhaled the flower’s scent. Mon Dieu,
none of my varied suitors had ever given her roses of any color. Ah,
gracias, mi caballero, mi Zorro! she daydreamed as one of her Indian
maids helped her dress.
hurriedly ate breakfast and announced that she was going riding and would
probably not return until late afternoon. She had an idea, one that
that she did not have a chance to discuss with El Zorro. Selena placed a
money pouch filled with reales and pesos into her saddlebag. then she rode
to the vaqueros’ quarters and told her foreman to accompany her.
Enrique Romero’s eyes widened when his mistress outlined her plan.
all of your tenants will be eternally grateful to you for your
kindness.” Romero’s eyes watered from admiration.
but I just happened to inherit great wealth and it is a matter of honor to
help those less fortunate than myself,” Selena replied softly.
wanted to reach all of her tenants before sundown. At every clay and stone
hut that she stopped, the pobrecitos were in despair wondering how
they were going to escape Glorioso’s vengeance since they had little if
any funds left to pay the new taxes. Many times during her excursion into
the countryside, Selena donated more than the sum required to satisfy the
pending taxes to each family who also needed money for food and clothing.
Everywhere she went Selena was greeted with great relief and joy. The señorita
also promised to send medical help to whoever needed treatment on her
estate as she had done several months before. In addition, Señorita de
Rojas reassured the pobrecitos that she would make certain that
everyone on her lands would have enough to eat during the winter.
Zorro rode Tornado up to the de la Vega patio gates. Old Juan, Don
Alejandro's manservant, was startled to see the Masked Avenger riding in
dias, señor!” Zorro called out. I have a very important note for Don
Alejandro de la Vega. Please make certain that he receives this message
immediately. The Fox handed the envelope to Juan. “Adios, amigo.” He
threw a brief salute to the servant and rode away towards Los Ángeles.
stared at the document in his hands. Then he recovered from his shock at
meeting El Zorro and called Jorge Paco, Don Alejandro’s personal
servant, and gave him the message. The Fox spoke to me, Juan Lopez! I
can not wait until I tell Crescencia and Manuelo about my meeting with El
Zorro! I will be the envy of all the de la Vega servants! Juan
chuckled delightfully to himself.
Alejandro de la Vega could scarcely believe Zorro risked being seen during
the day. He cared not a wit if one of the commandante’s spies reported
the Fox’s visit to his hacienda. If I were twenty years younger, I
would challenge Glorioso to a duel. But Alejandro was now in his early
sixties and his dueling days were only a pleasant memory of happier, more
invigorating times. He broke the wax seal on the document and began
to read it to himself.
find myself in the unusual position of needing to ask your help. I believe
that Commandante Glorioso can only be defeated if all of the dons band
together and oppose him. I suggest you meet with your fellow hidalgos
in secret, because the capitán has spies on his payroll. Don Alfredo
Alvarez is quite willing to help you in this matter. Today I am traveling
throughout the de la Vega district to give money to the pobrecitos so
that they shall be able to pay the latest taxes imposed by Glorioso. I
suggest that you propose this idea to Don Alfredo and a few or your mutual
influential friends. Also I would ask that you and your compadres please
elect a representative to send to Gobernador Luis Antonio Arguello
in Monterey. Again I must stress the urgency for secrecy because the
commandante has spies everywhere.
splendid proposal thought
Don Alejandro, who was always primed for battle rather than discuss urgent
civic matters over endless glasses of Jerez with the other hidalgos. Don
Alejandro called for Jorge Paco to saddle a horse for him because he
decided to visit Don Alfredo this very minute. Don Alfredo was certainly a
kindred spirit. He would be very thrilled to become actively involved in
any strategy against Glorioso. Before he left the library, he tossed the
letter that Zorro had drafted into the fire. Then with great determination
in his eyes, he rode as fast as he could to Don Alfredo's hacienda.
man in black paused in his work to drink some cool water from his canteen
but it was empty. “Fighting the commandante is hot and dusty work for
both of us, my friend. Come, Tornado there is a stream nearby. We can
quench our thirst there,” he said to Tornado as he guided the stallion
onward. Zorro halted his mount on the edge of a clearing next to the
water, checking the area for any signs of another human presence. Tornado
whinnied once after he sniffed the air. We are alone, my master. Nevertheless,
Zorro led Tornado cautiously through the chaparral and into the
knelt down and sipped some of the cool water before refilling his canteen.
The Fox had distributed most of the two hundred pesos he had brought with
him living on de la Vega land and had not yet reached the pobrecitos
residing on the de Rojas estates. Well, I have to try to see everyone I
can regardless how long it takes tonight. Since Capitan Glorioso was
already sending out his lancers to remind the peons about the ad
valorem taxes, he let Tornado drink only a little while longer. He
much preferred to play his usual cat-and-mouse game with the soldiers
Masked Avenger started towards the de Rojas property when heard horses’
hooves striking the gravel road that paralleled the stream. Zorro looked
around him. The countryside consisted of medium height scrub oak trees and
very little else. No choice. He had to make a feint away from here and
then, after he led the lancers on a merry chase, try to finish his mission
of mercy. The Fox whispered instructions to Tornado and the great coal
dark animal flew deeper into the brush on Señorita de Rojas’s lands.
Glorioso had stopped at the same stream to water both lancers and their
horses. He remounted his chestnut stallion and wiped the sweat from his
look! Over there!” Lancer Flores shouted.
shifted his weight in his saddle. As he turned around, he saw Zorro
Señor Fox you shall not escape this time. Glorioso muttered to himself, then he shouted to his men:
“Do not shoot him! I want him taken alive!”
the commandante could think of was how he would publicly humiliate Zorro
by first flogging him until the Fox screamed for mercy and then hanging
him. With the elimination of Zorro, he would have carte blanche to
deal with the populace of Los Angeles. Not to mention he could then easily
pit one don against the other.
continued chasing the mysterious Dark Angel until sunset. The lancers were
tired and hungry and their horses were exhausted and covered with foam. Santa
Maria! I am so close to trapping my nefarious foe. Surely that fantastic
animal that the Masked Avenger rides is tired. He must be fatigued also.
stopped Tornado to let his horse rest because the animal‘s chest was
heaving. “Easy, caballo, easy. We have done quite a
day’s work, eh? If I know the commandante, he is extremely frustrated
and wants nothing more than to return to the Cuartel and have a hot
dinner.” He rubbed Tornado’s neck affectionately. “Come, there is a
very small cave behind the Rica Luna Waterfall on Señorita de Rojas’
property. It is not far.” He did not remount Tornado and instead led him
by the reins through the brush towards the waterfall. The Fox was careful
to keep his head ducked below the little more than waist high vegetation.
He was so hot and sweaty from the dust kicked up during their escapades
today that his black clothes and boots were a dull charcoal. When he
arrived at Rica Luna, Zorro wanted to leap in fully dressed. How I wish
I could remove my mask and bathe my face in the cool water, he said to
of the lancers who had gotten separated from the main group spotted the
Fox lurking through the bushes. Five thousand pesos! The reward for
Zorro shall be all mine! Lancer Peldar could not believe his good
fortune. He raised and carefully aimed his escopeta and fired.
had barely reached the edge of the waterfall when he felt a burning
sensation on the right side of his head. The world flared into a brilliant
white before his eyes and then he was dimly aware of a sharp pain before
he slumped to the ground.
Glorioso! I have shot Zorro! I have shot Zorro!” Peldar exclaimed.
Commandante hastily rode out to the soldier. “Where is the outlaw? Take
me to him, baboso!”
quickly led the capitán to the spot where he wounded the Fox.
was thrilled that he would at last have a body to show the Gobernador and
to the people of Los Ángeles. That would convince them their infamous
hero was human after all! Zorro’s corpse would make quite a trophy
hanging from the gallows he would erect in the center of the Pueblo de
Los Ángeles’ marketplace. And if this lancer thought that he
was going to collect the reward he was sadly mistaken.
short distance away, Selena was riding Thunder, her bay gelding, pleased
she had distributed all of the pesos and reales to her father’s tenants.
No, they are your tenants now, Selena, despite Spanish law
prohibiting women from inheriting property. Well, the lands and tenants
are mine until the solicitor probates my father’s will so my brother in
law could assume ownership or until I marry and my husband would receive
the title to father’s lands, whichever occurs first, Selena sighed
resignedly. As she told Thunder to return home she thought she heard
Dieu, could there be poachers trespassing on my property?” she said
aloud. Selena looked at the sun hanging low in the sky. Another hour or so
and it would be dark. Then she worried it might be the capitán hunting
for El Zorro. But I will not allow that porco of Spanish officer to
harm the Fox! The señorita dug her heels into her horse‘s side and
against all good judgment raced toward the Rica Luna waterfall with a
loaded pistola in her left hand. El Zorro Glorioso will not capture you
without a fight, Selena thought, this oath I swear on Don Martino
de Rojas’s grave!
OF CHAPTER F0URTEEN