The Promise

by

 

Gail Manfre

 

 

 

CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO

CAPITAN GLORIOSO STRIKES BACK

 

 

 

After taking a refreshing bath, Glorioso began writing his latest order:

AVISO

Please be advised that the Commandante of the Pueblo de Los Angeles has declared that as of one o’clock this afternoon, this 9th day of November, in the year of Our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and twenty one, there exists, to wit:

A STATE OF MARTIAL LAW

IN THE PUEBLO OF LOS ANGELES

UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. Anyone seen on the streets of the Pueblo after one thirty o’clock p.m. TODAY, WILL BE SUBJECT TO ARREST, IMPRISONMENT CORPORAL PUNISHMENT AND EXECUTION..

SIGNED

JUAN RAMON GLORIOSO

COMMANDANTE PUEBLO DE LOS ANGELES

 

The capitán then opened his door and shouted for Garcia and Reyes to report to him at once.

From behind the locked cuartel gates, Garcia listened to the roar of the unruly crowd outside and thought to himself, I wish the people would go home and try to forget about what happened to Don Diego today in the plaza. There is nothing they can do about his flogging, and the longer they remain in the pueblo, the more likely Commandante Glorioso will send soldiers outside to force them to leave. I hope he does not decide use more physical force but knowing the commandante he would completely enjoy doing so.

“I might as well see what problems the commandante has made for us lancers now! Garcia told Reyes as they slowly and reluctantly climbed the stairs leading to the capitán’s office and knocked on the door.

“Entrar," Glorioso testily ordered

"You sent for us, Capitán?" Garcia and Reyes chorused as they saluted their superior officer.

Glorioso got up from his chair and stood toe to toe with Garcia. Reyes stood as still as a statue, petrified beyond belief. "Sergeant, may I ask you a personal question?"

"Of course, Commandante. What is it?" Sergeant Garcia did his best to avoid the glacial stare in Glorioso’s eyes but failed. The sergeant began sweating.

Glorioso tapped his bullwhip against the desk in a familiar pattern known only to him. "Tell me sergeant, how did you feel about Don Diego is de la Vega’s flogging in the Plaza today? Did you feel pity for him? Or did you feel that he deserved that particular punishment?" The capitán walked around the increasingly uncomfortable Garcia several times, each time stepping closer and closer to the sergeant's face. "Well, I am waiting for your answer, Garcia!"

Garcia tugged at the collar of his uniform which for some strange reason had suddenly become very tight around his neck. What do I say? I have the odd feeling that whatever I say the capitán will twist to his advantage. Well, Demetrio, say something....

"Commandante, although Don Diego is a good friend, he did ...ah ... volunteer to submit to the lash. As a good soldier, I am honor bound to carry out your orders." Garcia replied anxiously, hoping his remarks would satisfy Glorioso.

“And yourself, Corporal Reyes, you are of the same opinion, eh?” Glorioso asked.

“Si, mi commandante!”

“Excellent response, gentlemen. Continue having that attitude and you and I shall have a most beneficial relationship. Now for the business at hand. Take a squadron of soldiers outside to enforce my newly declared aviso of martial

law. Use whatever physical force necessary to clear the street, Sergeant!” Glorioso said emphatically. “Do you understand me, Garcia, and Corporal Reyes, use any physical force required to fulfill your orders! If I learn of any reports of leniency on your part, you will live to regret ever having met me!

The commandante looked disgustedly at both Reyes and Garcia. “You two are dismissed ."

“At your command!” the lancers hastily replied as Garcia and Reyes saluted and escaped from the capitán’s foul presence as quickly as they could. Dios mi, Garcia prayed, por favor, let the people obey my orders to go home! I honestly do not know if I can bring myself to shoot my friends.

 

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

Tomás Ballarias struggled for breath. Although he was bound to the whipping post and stripped to the waist, Capitán Glorioso had left him alone for quite a while. The problem was Tomás had had neither food nor water for nearly thirty-six hours. His tongue seemed glued to the roof of his cracked and raw mouth, and his lips were swollen and blistered. Being tied by the wrists for that period of time not only reduced circulation to the arms but also stretched all of the bones in his upper torso to the brink of nearly dislocating both shoulders. Ballarias feared that he had reached the limits of his physical endurance...by all of the saints he was so thirsty!

In his office the Commandante grew weary of listening to Sergeant Garcia’s pleas to be given permission to let Ballarias have some water. Inhuman am I? he thought in amusement. Who or rather what is a tailor to the Vizconde de Estrada? Trouble was that people like Ballarias occasionally needed to be reminded of their proper station in polite society. This merchant simply required more persuasion of the physical nature. How tedious his life had become ...

Glorioso had an excellent view of Ballarias’s discomfort from where he was sitting. After the prisoner had been captured, the Commandante had ordered that the Cuartel’s whipping post to be moved closer to his quarters which meant that his prisoner’s condition would not be visible to anyone in the plaza whenever the Cuartel’s gates were opened. He leisurely finished the tasty morning meal, which Teresa had prepared for him, while Garcia droned on. Weary of the sergeant’s complaints regarding the tailor, Glorioso suddenly had an idea.

“Sergeant Garcia, perhaps I have been too harsh in my treatment of Señor Balleras. I am going to release Tomás Ballarias today and I shall even see that he has food and water before noon. Dismissed.”

“Gracias, the Commandante is most generous.” the sergeant said wondering what in the name of Heaven had changed Glorioso’s mind. He met Corporal Peldar as he opened the door to leave.

“Your pardon, sir. I have some information that may prove useful to the Commandante.”

“Si? Well speak up corporal!” Glorioso replied dismissively.

“Sir, one of the other péons you arrested yesterday said something very strange before he, ah, died.”

“Come on corporal, I am a busy man.” the commandante said more sharply this time, without looking at Peldar.

“This half-breed told me that Señora de la Vega had given him and the other tenants on her property money to pay the new taxes.”

SEÑORA DE LA VEGA?” he shouted. “NOT EL ZORRO?’

“Oh, sí, mi Capitán. The péon also said that some of his compadres were also given money by the Fox and Señora de la Vega for the same purpose.”

“That is all, Peldar. You have done very well. Dismissed!” He was completely stunned by this bit of news. Selena de la Vega? Conspiring with El Zorro the outlaw? I am intrigued. If I could force one or even better, two of those wretches to admit that she working with Zorro, Señora de la Vega’s actions, despite her good intentions, will condemn her to jail or worse. The church bell rang loudly signaling that it was eight o’clock in the morning. Glorioso scrutinized himself before his bedroom mirror and sucked his abdomen in. Certainly, another visit to see the exquisite Selena was in order. But other matters deserved his attention now and he went straight to where Ballaras kept to question him personally. Good! Any fool could see that Señor Ballarias was in dire straits. He should be ready to talk. The prisoner hung limply from his wrist manacles, his dry mouth and tongue swollen from lack of water.

Corporal Peldar, awaken this pero at once!”

Peldar slapped Ballarias’s face several times before the man opened his eyes.

“Señor Ballarias. I will make you a fair and equitable trade. Your life for your signature on a certain confession. Interested?” Glorioso casually asked.

“W-water....water....”

“No water, Señor Ballarias, not until after you admit that you received money from Señora de la Vega or El Zorro.”

“I- did not ...not from Señora de la Vega ... but El Zorro...sí.” the prisoner forced out these last words from his sunburned lips.

“Ah, El Zorro supplied you with pésos and reales to pay the special taxes?” Glorioso cruelly persisted, taking a cup of water from a lancer and deliberately drinking some in front of the thirsty tailor.

Ballarias hung his head. “S-si! The Fox gave many people money. Water, for the love of God, commandante!”

“And,” Glorioso prodded the prisoner with the butt of his bullwhip; “did not he also say that he and Señora de la Vega were acting together in this plan to help the péons meet their financial obligations?” When Ballarias did not answer him, the Capitán slapped the merchant with his whip across his face. “If you want to live, tailor, you will confess everything. Be quick about revealing what you know about this conspiracy between Doña de la Vega and that criminal vagabond, El Zorro! My patience will soon vanish!“

Ballarias looked skyward and prayed for forgiveness from El Zorro and especially from Doña de la Vega. He truly respected Selena de la Vega y de Rojas and he knew that in order to save his own hide he would have to lie. Madre de Dios! he sighed inwardly.

Glorioso removed his jacket and pulled on his gloves. “All right, I am finished with our discussion, tailor! You shall now receive ten lashes on your back and then IF you are still uncooperative, ten more, and then ten more after that until either you are dead or until you decide to tell the truth!”

Horrified, Sergeant Garcia watched the Commandante’ threatening the tailor from Glorioso’s office steps.

“Your pardon, mi Capitán... but you promised to release the prisoner, and ...” Garcia protested.

“So I did, sergeant, I just did not say exactly when. Now move aside!” Glorioso ordered.

Lancers Peldar, Gomez and Hugo untied Ballarias and repositioned him once again on the whipping post.

“N-no! Wait, commandante! I w-will speak, por favor!” Señor Balleras begged.

Capitán Glorioso handed his bullwhip to Gomez. “You will not only be doing yourself a favor by giving me the truth, but you would also be protecting your wife and young niño! Well, I do not like to be kept waiting, Señor!”

“I myself.... did not receive money from the Señora de la Vega, but heard some péons...talking. They took money from her and El Zorro. Everyone said. ‘They must have planned this together.’ I swear on my mother’s grave, commandante!” Ballarias pleaded.

“You are willing to sign this document --- Lancer Gomez handed him a blank piece of parchment with the seal of the Spanish Crown government in the lower right hand corner---immediately, then?”

“Si, Capitán,” Ballarias mournfully replied, not even glancing at what he was about to sign. The tailor hung his head. Santa Maria, I already regret what I have done ...forgive me, Doña Selena, forgive me...

“Release the prisoner’s hands Corporal Peldar.” The Commandante placed a quill already dipped in ink and placed the document atop a leather binder within Tomás Ballarias’s reach. “Sign here, Señor.”

Ballarias did as he was told and felt that he just made a pact with El Diablo himself.

“Give the prisoner all the water he desires,” Glorioso ordered Lancer Gomez before he walked back to his office to draft the complaint against Señora de la Vega. “Peldar, come here at once!”

“Si, mi Capitán!”

“Corporal, after you are satisfied that Tómas Ballarias has refreshed himself adequately, return him to the whipping post and give him ten lashes, understood?”

“Perfectly.” Peldar smiled at him.

“Peldar, continue your excellent work and soon you will become a sergeant and perhaps take Garcia’s place!” Glorioso replied sincerely.

 

ZZZZZZZZZZZ

 

Don Alejandro called to order the long delayed meeting of all the local dons. Dons Alfredo Alvarez, Cornelio Esperon, Nacho Torres, Miguelito Suarez, Romero Perez y Salazar and his nineteen year old son, Rodolfo, Eugenio Doloros, Carlos Caudillo and Roberto Gomez y Battelas, answered Don Alejandro de la Vega’s summons eager to find any means of removing Commandante Glorioso from his post at the Pueblo de Los Angeles.

El Zorro watched from behind the wall in the library, as all of the invited dons arrived at the de la Vega hacienda. He counted to fifty as he raced through the secret passageways to the stable and reentered the hacienda, waiting for the signal that he had prearranged with Don Alejandro.

Zorro had been puzzled by the strange look on his father’s face when he visited him yesterday in his bedroom. There was a welcome change in Don Alejandro’s attitude towards him that the Fox could not understand. Since Diego had conversed with his father many times in the library, Don Alejandro had never been so.. respectful to him. As he stood before his father, Don Alejandro spoke to him tenderly as if he knew it was Diego behind the mask. Dios, mi! Had I slipped up, let down my guard, thus leading him to guess my secret? Zorro anxiously thought.

“Don Alejandro, are you unwell sir?” he had asked his father last night, after the elder de la Vega just silently stared at Zorro’s masked face for quite a while before answering the Fox’s question.

“No. You must excuse an old man’s feelings, Señor Zorro. You have, of course, heard about the Commandante’s sadistic treatment of my son, Diego.”

“Si.” was all the Fox replied, growing very uneasy regarding what direction this conversation was heading.

“Zorro, do you remember the dream I had after you rescued me from a trap set by Commandante Monastario? In that dream, I longed to remove the mask and hoped to find that you were in reality, my dear son, Diego.”

The Masked Avenger’s body tensed. Forcing himself to keep his voice calm, he replied, “Of course, Don Alejandro. Please continue, I am most ... interested in what you have to say.”

“Gracias, El Zorro. Diego’s noble unselfishness that he displayed earlier his week made me realize how ... badly I misjudged him. He is not like you, Zorro, and he never will be. Diego prefers to wage war behind the scenes and cares little for glory. Whereas you, my young caballero, you thrive on the excitement and danger of the hunt. You are above all else a man of action. Si, I have learned an important lesson from my son.”

“And that is?” the Fox prompted him, hoping he adequately concealed the anxiety in his voice from his father.

Don Alejandro’s dark eyes grew misty and he found that he could not bear to look at El Zorro. He would lose all emotional control and reveal his knowledge of his son’s secret identity. “Every man must find his own way, chose his own destiny, “ he said softly over his shoulder, “and I pray that Diego will find it in his heart to forgive me.”

The man in black silk smiled. “Excellente, Don Alejandro. Don Diego is a lucky indeed to have you as his father. Until the meeting, adios!” He bowed slightly from the waist and gave Don Alejandro a brief salute. Zorro leaped through an open window and rode home with a light heart.

“Vaya con Dios, Señor Zorro, my son!” Alejandro had whispered.

 

 

END OF THIRTY TWO

 

 

 

 

Chapter Thirty-three
Chapter One
Zorro Contents
Main Page