Lancer Hugo was too scared to move, but Peldar raised
his weapon and fired. Garcia was standing next to him and at the last
moment, pushed himself against the lancer. Peldar’s shot whizzed over
Tómas Ballarias’s head. Several of the rescue party from the Cuartel
fired their rifles into the air. Their strategy worked crowd panicked as
men trampled on those who had the bad luck to fall down and in less than
ten minutes after the riot started it dissipated.
Glorioso was incensed. “I am declaring martial law!
Lancers arrest anyone whom you can catch but capturing Tómas Ballarias
is crucial! I want him taken alive! Andelante!”
Back in his office, the Vizconde de Estrada marched up
and down the length his room. MADRE DE DI0S! The mendacity of these péons!
Glorioso muttered aloud as he threw himself into his red leather chair
and propped his feet up on his desk. Odd that only a handful of péons
had no money to pay his new taxes. My jail cells should be full of
half-breeds and other scum whom I would later sell their services to
shipmasters in San Pedro. Yes, something is not quite right here. And I
bet that diablo, El Zorro, is the answer to this puzzle! First things
first. Glorioso felt the pleasant sensation of blood rushing to his
head contemplating the ways, most of them excruciatingly painful, of
extracting information from uncooperative prisoners the lancers would
soon be tossing into his jail cells.
Benito Fuentes, the de la Vegas’s foreman,
was about to turn onto the street leading to the plaza of the Pueblo de
Los Angeles when he heard screaming and shouting emanating from the
marketplace. Groups of people ran toward him, yelling for Benito to ride
out of town.
is happening, compadre?” Benito asked.
Glorioso has finally gone mad, amigo. Yesterday, he beat Don Diego de la
Vega with his whip before everyone in the Pueblo! Now he is arresting anyone
caught on the streets after three o’clock in the afternoon! Run, amigo,
run!” explained the frightened péon.
Benito could not believe what he was hearing.
Glorioso flogged Don Diego? This is truly madness! He thought
disgustedly as he pulled his chestnut horse into an alley at the far end
of the plaza. Fuentes’ heart burned with hatred as he saw the
Commandante use his saber on men and women alike.
Diego slept fitfully through the night and Selena remained
by his side so that she could respond each time he called her name. When
she awoke Bernardo was setting up some breakfast for her.
Diego’s mozo returned her compliment. I
assumed you were both asleep when I knocked on your door earlier this
morning. Will my master rest much longer? He asked her in his
peculiar sign language.
“He should awaken very soon, Bernardo. When he does, I
“The master of this hacienda is not only awake
he is ravenous.” Diego announced suddenly. Will someone get me some
hot chocolate, some huevos rancheros, and ...”
Bernardo ran to Diego’s side with tears of joy
streaming down his face.
“I am going to eat and I have to ... Dios, mi!”
Diego attempted to sit up but the sharp pains in his back stopped him.
Selena pretended to be angry with him. She marched back
and forth in their bedroom holding her hands over her cheeks. “Oh, sí,
Don Diego! Your every whim is our command! Bernardo, go and fetch
Jorge Paco and Teodores-- and tell Don Alejandro that Don Diego
is awake and being more difficult than usual!”
Bernardo wisely retreated downstairs and did not return
for a good while to allow the couple some privacy.
“Me? Difficult? Jamas en la vida!” [Never in
“Taites-vous, Mon ame.” Selena said as she
sat in the bed to kiss him.
“Mmmm.” Diego relaxed, as his bride tasted his face
and neck repeatedly with her lips.
“Hush, Señor!” Selena playfully reproached him.
Two days later Diego felt quite refreshed and had had
his fill of “bed rest.” He gazed at Selena sleeping restlessly on a
cot across the bedroom. Lovely as she was, Diego noticed signs of
fatigue on her face, dark smudges beneath her eyes and lines around her
mouth. So Diego ordered Amontildar to prepare a sleeping tonic for
Selena that afternoon after Bernardo helped him with a quick bath. Don
Diego also insisted that Bernardo set up a cot in their bedroom so that
he could make certain she would sleep. Between his mozo and
Selena’s le bonne gouvernmante personelle [personal maid and
housekeeper], Diego would rest far easier knowing that his wife was in
Amontildar finally convinced her mistress to drink some
milk, and although Selena hated milk, to placate her husband she took a
couple of sips. Oh, goodness...this contains Amontildar’s famous
sleeping medicine, she groused to herself.
“Mais chere, Je ne l‘ai pas de boire!” [I can not
drink this!”] Selena sighed, but with both Diego and Amontildar
hovering above her, Selena finished the entire glass of milk.
“I really am not tired.” She yawned. Her husband and
her maid nodded silently. Diego leaned on the fireplace mantel watching
her reaction to the “spiked” liquid and not quite managing to stifle
a grin as she finished the milk.
“Amontildar did you ... double.... potion.. Mon Dieu...”
Selena’s head fell back against her pillows and within minutes she was
“Monsieur, you two folks be the worst people I ever
have as patients. That one,” Amontildar whispered, indicating Selena,
“she be hard to handle since she born!”
Diego smiled down at Amontildar, and like her mistress,
she also melted when this tres beau man did so. “Mam’selle,
somehow I do not find that hard to believe. Amontildar, Selena simply
can not live without you, “ he gently replied as he escorted the
Creole maidservant from their bedroom. “Now, I shall watch over
Selena. You go and get some rest.”
“Oui, monsieur.” Amontildar exhaled dreamily as she
went downstairs to the servants’ quarters. As usual, le Monsieur
cared far more others around him than he did for his own welfare. Quel
homme! Quand je le vois, il fait un oscillation du mon coeur sauvagement!
[Sigh, what a man! Whenever I see him my heart flutters like something
As Diego lay in bed observing Selena, he almost forgot
the deep soreness in his back muscles caused by the flogging. My
sweet love! How terrible she must have felt to watch that canaille
Glorioso beat me. Becoming drowsy myself. Would not doubt it that wise
Creole servant slipped a tad of her “sleep medicine” into my brandy.
Gradually, he dozed off but he had a nightmare that the commandante
kidnapped Selena and forced her to watch El Zorro hang. Then Glorioso
put her to work in his brothel...
“Selena! Mi corazon! NO! NO! NO!” he yelled.
Soft hands stroked his face and Diego felt something
deliciously cool applied over his forehead. “Hush, beloved. I am
sitting right next to you. Everything is going to be fine.”
Diego opened his eyes hoping that he would find
Selena’s cheery face smiling at him. Sí, she was here with him.
Gracias a Dios!
“Ah, Señora de la Vega ... are you aware that there
is a beautiful woman in your husband’s bedroom nursing him back to
health?” he teased her as he lightly caressed the delicate skin on her
“Mon Dieu! Do you think I should call Amontildar and
have her use her broom on la petite demi-mondaine and drive her
from this hacienda!”
He dropped himself against the pillows, laughing as hard
as he could, despite his back muscles’ protest. “OUCH!” Diego
yelped. It hurts when I laugh!”
“Serves you right, Monsieur Renard! Whatever
will your belle femme [pretty/woman/ wife] say?”
Diego drew her to his lips. “I would hope,” he began
huskily, “that ma belle femme would forgive her corazon’s
poor attempts at humor and love her husband for all eternity!” His
touch once again caused her passion to erupt and Selena momentarily
forgot his sore back. When she started to pull away, Diego tried to
grasp her waist and grimaced.
“See? I am going to call Bernardo and he can help me
change your dressing!”
“Querida, just one more thing?” Diego
Her eyebrows arched. “Sí?”
“Is there anything to eat? “ He rubbed his stomach
in mock despair. “I am starving!”
She rolled her eyes. “Fortunately, Amontildar obtained
some seafood this morning. Will shrimp étouffée do for dinner?”
Diego grinned. “I suppose so. One must make do with
what one is offered!“ Selena tossed several pillows at him before she
closed the door.
Don Alejandro paced back and forth in the patio. He
still had not come to terms with the knowledge that Diego was El Zorro.
Alejandro did not enjoy the fact that his son believed that his father
despised him, and in the recent past Alejandro had called him a coward.
Now the elder de la Vega saw Diego’s true self, kind, generous and
very brave. Bethia de la Cruz, my darling wife, I know that you are
as proud as I am that our son is a bona fide hero!
Diego exited their bedroom and saw the de la Vegas’
head vaquero, Benito, enter the patio looking for Don Alejandro. The caballero
saw the anger in Benito’s hurried gait and Diego flew downstairs
to learn what troubled the young man..
“Patron, Glorioso has arrested many townspeople,” Benito
exclaimed angrily. “Some of the men were sold to the capitáns in San
Pedro, others the commandante flogged until the poor souls were almost
“Father, why did you not inform me about the situation in
the pueblo?“ Diego’s face was a jarring image of disgust and resolve
fighting to see which would dominate his mood.
Don Alejandro put his hand on Diego’s shoulder. “My
son you have made me---” his voice choked with emotion.
Diego stared at his father. Surely he does not know
about my masquerade as Zorro? How in St. Teresa’s name did he--
“You must leave something for this El Zorro fellow to do.
Whoever he may be you are equally as brave in your own way! Besides, do
you not think that the Fox is aware of these new developments in the
Pueblo?” Don Alejandro said matter of factly.
His son swallowed the bile that had risen in his throat
and slowly relaxed the tension from his body. “Si, it is said of the
Masked Avenger that one only has to speak into the air and the wind will
carry your plea to his ears!”
“That I can easily believe, Diego.”
The people of Los Angeles need El Zorro now,
Diego chided himself bitterly, time doe the Fox to ride!
“Capitán! Capitán!” an excited Lancer Peldar
knocked on Glorioso’s office door.
“Yes, entrar!” the capitán glanced up briefly to
see who was disturbing him after such a distressing tax collection day.
“Si,” he said irritably, “what in the name of the Savior is it,
“We have arrested Tómas Ballarias, mi commandante.
Gomez and I caught him in a meeting of shopkeepers who were discussing
‘WHAT! Excellente! Good work, Peldar, you and Gomez
shall both be promoted to corporal immediately! Please treat the
prisoner as my personal guest until I am ready to properly deal with
him. You are dismissed for now!”
Capitán Glorioso was secretly quite thrilled, but now
all he wanted to do was to take a hot bath and change his clothes. He
could interrogate this particular prisoner at his leisure. Let
the tailor stew in his own fears! Serves him right for publicly defying
me! He muttered aloud. But there was one other order Glorioso had to
issue before considering his own creature comforts. He walked to his
office door and yelled for Corporal Reyes to come inside.
“By your command, c-capitán.” Corporal Reyes
stuttered, shaking as usual whenever he had to meet face to face with
Glorioso eyed the quaking corporal and scowled. “For
God’s sake, Reyes, stop fidgeting! Stand still! I do not bite, you
Corporal Reyes swallowed uncomfortably and thought
warily, no, commandante, but your whip certainly does! And I am not
as brave as Don Diego is! I admit that I am a coward!
“Dios mi,” Glorioso shouted, scaring poor Reyes out
of several years’ growth in the process, “whatever have I done to be
saddled with such an incompetent soldier as yourself!”
Reyes shrugged nonchalantly as he replied." I do
not know mi commandante.”
“By the Virgin, corporal, that was a moot question,
requiring no answer on your part! Now shut up and listen to my order!”
After briefly outlining his order for barring all
visitors to the cuartel unless the capitán granted express permission
for the guards to do so, Glorioso hastily dismissed Reyes. By the
three Marias! With a bit of luck and whatever useful information I can
obtain from Ballarias, Los Ángeles will be last posting until my
triumphant return to the restoration of my family’s glory and the
END OF CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE