The Promise

by

 

Gail Manfre

 

 

 

CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE

 

AT THE CAPITÁN’S MERCY

 

 

 

“TEODORES! NO!” Selena yelled as she watched as her childhood Indian friend clutched his chest in agony and topple wordlessly to the ground. Diego grabbed Selena and used all of his broad shouldered, six foot three inch frame to keep her safe from the line of fire as Glorioso ordered his soldiers to encircle Selena.

Don Alejandro’s mozo, Jorge Paco, who had rushed outside to the patio in a vain attempt to prevent Teodores from attacking Glorioso, went to the Indian’s aid. Jorge shook his head. “Muerte.”

“Now, to avoid any further unpleasantness,“ Glorioso calmly stated, “release Señora de la Vega to my authority, or so help me, Don Diego, by the Holy Trinity, I will shoot everyone in this hacienda and then throw her into jail!”

Selena raised her head from her husband’s shoulders and dried her tears “Everything will be fine, querida,” she whispered to him. Señora de la Vega turned to face the Visconde. “What are the charges against me?”

Glorioso relaxed his guard somewhat. “As I said earlier to Don Alejandro, Señora Selena de la Vega y de Rojas, you are charged with conspiracy against the military authority of the Pueblo of Los Angeles. You and El Zorro gave money to the péons for taxes. That is, at the very least, aiding and abetting a known criminal!”

She laughed. “Is it now a crime to insure that our tenants have the money to pay their taxes? Do you really care where the péons obtain their tax money?” Selena glared at the Visconde as she spoke, “Señor, you grant me too much credit; indeed I have only met El Zorro twice. I found him to be charming but he is, after all, an outlaw!”

Diego still tried to shield her from the lancers who now completely surrounded them. “Selena, do not say anything more. My father and I will have an attorney here by tomorrow afternoon.”

Visconde de Estrada merely smirked. “But we are speaking of today, right now, Don Diego. The Señora will spend the rest of today until her legal counsel arrives, as a guest in my cuartel.” De Estrada snapped his fingers and two lancers stepped forward. “Hugo and Gomez, arrest... ”

“Your Excellency! What is the trouble here?” Sergeant Garcia shouted as he rushed into the patio immediately after hearing the rifle shot. “Dios mi! What is going on, Excellency? I heard the Señora scream, and ...”

Glorioso immediately pushed Garcia forward and thrust some rope into his hands. “I order you, in the name of the Spanish Crown, to take Señora Selena de la Vega y de Rojas into custody. Place her immediately into the wagon and transport her to the Cuartel!”

“Surely mi Capitán, you are joking!” Garcia swiveled his head from the predatory look on Glorioso’s face to the fierce scowl of Don Diego, who was literally cocooning Selena in his arms and repeatedly knocking aside the lancers’ rifle butts away from him.

“Garcia, arrest the Señora on the charge of treason against the Spanish Crown at once!” de Estrada yelled, angrily balling his hands into fists.

But Garcia was stunned beyond belief. “I can not do this thing you ask, your Excellency! Surely you are joking, sí?“ Totally befuddled, Garcia glanced from Don Diego’s grim face to the awful look of triumph His Excellency wore.

“That is exactly what he intends to do, Sergeant Garcia,” Diego responded furiously, “but I shall not permit this outrage upon my wife’s person!” The sounds of five escopetas being primed for discharge clicked in the newlyweds’ ears.

De Estrada was not about to give up this easily. Sí, I know exactly how to get Don Diego to surrender his wife to me. While Don Diego was trying to reason with Sergeant Garcia, the Visconde walked up to Don Alejandro and aimed his pistola at the old man’s head.

“Give me Selena, Don Diego, or by all the Saints, I will execute Don Alejandro! I am only performing my duty.” de Estrada’s face darkened. “Release her to my authority, Don Diego, or all of you will suffer severe consequences!”

Alejandro exhaled audibly. “My son you have no choice in this matter.” His father glared at de Estrada. “This is far from over, capitán, far from over, I promise you that!”

Diego’s jaw was so tight that his teeth ached. Despicable bastard! Zorro will deal with you, de Estrada later, when you least expect him! Diego’s mind raced in a hundred different directions. Then he kissed Selena’s upturned face and lips intensely. “Be brave, Selena, and I shall see what El Zorro can do,” Diego said in her ear.

“Mon coeur, je retournerai a bientot!” [I shall return soon!] she hoarsely replied, unshed tears straining her voice.

Lancers Hugo and Gomez stepped forward, but Sergeant Garcia blocked their way. He turned to Selena and removed his hat. “Forgive me, Señora, I am only following orders.”

“Of course, I shall not resist you, kind Señor.” As Selena held out her wrists for him to tie up she glared defiantly at Glorioso.

Glorioso called out: “No, Garcia! You shall place her hands behind her back and then tie her to the wagon’s pole!”

Diego stepped toward the armed lancers. “This is simply outrageous, de Estrada! Selena is a Grandee like yourself! I will not stand for it!! I-I ...” When the lancers again aimed their rifles at him, Diego sighed bitterly. “Father is right, querida. We have no choice but to cooperate.”

“B-but Commandante, the Señora is no common criminal!” Garcia stuttered from shock. “She will be hurt, and I do not want to harm the Señora!” To her surprise, tears welled up in the sergeant’s dark eyes.

Baboso! Do your duty, Sergeant!”

“It is perfectly fine, Sergeant Garcia,” Selena reassured him, “you, at least, know how to treat a lady.” She cast another long, loving look at Diego and then turned her back to the sergeant.

Garcia gently pulled her arms behind her back and slowly walked her to the wagon. He and two other soldiers helped her climb inside where Hugo and Gomez fastened her to a pole.

But the Visconde had already decided treat Selena de la Vega as a common thug in order to break her proud spirit. “Gomez, bind her by the waist also, and tight enough so that she can breathe but can not move,” Glorioso muttered to Garcia.

“Si, Excellency! Señora de la Vega, I am s-so sorry ...” the sergeant removed his hat and bowed slightly to her.

Selena grimaced slightly when the lancer pulled the additional restraint as tightly as he could. Then he retied her hands, and the rough rope bit into her wrists so much so that they began bleeding.

Diego watched helplessly with a lump in his throat when he saw how cruelly the lancers were treating Selena. Jorge Paco, his father and Bernardo all struggled to restrain Diego from trying to rescue Selena. My pregnant wife! Oh, Virgin Mary, Santa Teresa, give her courage! her husband prayed. After the wagon began moving, Diego walked out to the road and asked Sergeant to tell the lancer to drive slowly until they reached the Camino Real.

Je t’aime beaucoup!” Diego called out as she and the soldiers disappeared from view. His eyes blinked back tears. No, Diego, losing your head now will only make a bad situation worse. He and his father would ride into the pueblo later. But first, Diego had Amontildar pack a change of clothes and some blankets for her mistress.

For Selena, the journey into Los Angeles was painful since the driver seemed to hit every hole and bump in the Camino Real. Her waist felt as if the heavy rope corseted it. The bonds on her hands were so tight that she could no longer feel her fingertips. But Selena would not give Capitan Glorioso the satisfaction of revealing that she was in pain. The wife of Diego de la Vega was determined to hold her head high as the caravan entered the marketplace.

She stared straight-ahead, ignoring the blatant lust in Glorioso’s wine dark eyes as he rode alongside the prisoners’ wagon. When they reached the gates of the Cuartel, the Commandante ordered the wagon to stop. Raising himself up in the saddle, he announced to a crowd of spectators:

“This morning I have arrested Selena de la Vega y de Rojas for the crime of giving aid and shelter to the man in black, El Zorro! The Señora will be tried two days from today when Judge Vasca arrives from Monterey. Anyone with information regarding her guilt --”

The Alcalde of the Pueblo, Don Manuel Roberto Baltazar interrupted him.

“One moment, Commandante! We, the local regidores [members of the cabildo [town council], shall insure that this prisoner will not be mistreated! She is a distant cousin of His Majesty King Ferdinand VII and we will make certain that Señora de la Vega receives a fair trial. And that, Capitán Glorioso, is not a threat but a promise! “

Glorioso’s veins throbbed visibly in his neck. “Surely you do not condone her behavior, Señor Alcalde?”

Señor Baltazar looked directly into the Commandante’s eyes. “Your words and your accusations, mi Capitán. There is no one in Los Angeles who will believe your lies!”

Visconde de Estrada fumed inwardly. I did not expect this reaction from elected officials. Better get her into a jail cell now! He glanced around the

plaza. The crowd was mushrooming in size as merchants closed their shops and vendors in the plaza packed up their wares. Many of the péons were staring at him with deep hatred in their eyes. And then one tomato, and another and another, struck his uniform and his mount.

“FREE SEÑORA DE LA VEGA!” one man shouted! “SHE IS INNOCENT!” "DOWN WITH COMMANDANTE GLORIOSO!” “SI! LET US RESCUE HER!”

Selena knew exactly what cruelties the Commandante was capable of perpetrating on the populace. And they were behaving precisely the way Glorioso expected. I must try to convince them to wait at least until Zorro would arrive!

“Señores, please heed ... my warning!” Selena struggled to raise her voice and was rewarded for her efforts with a sharp pain in her side. “Capitán Glorioso is too... strong for you to ... resist at this time! I am willing ... to stand trial before ... an honest and just man, Judge Vasca! Please go home!” But now she was completely breathless and slumped against the wagon pole.

Alcalde Baltazar agreed with her. “Citizens, listen to her. Go home! Allow the judge to take care of this matter!” The Alcalde looked up at Señora de la Vega and noticed how wan her face had become.

“You Excellency! The Señora has fainted! The least you can do is unbind her from the pole and summon Dr. Avila!”

“SILENCIO!” the Visconde shouted. “Garcia, open the cuartel gates and get her into a cell! Andalante! Inside the Cuartel quickly!”

Garcia and Reyes raced through the parted gates while de Estrada used his saber to cut his way through to safety.

“RELEASE SEÑORA DE LA VEGA!” A group of men pounded on the Cuartel’s now closed gate.

Glorioso whispered instructions to Lancer Peldar who relayed the Commandante’s wishes to a squadron of soldiers guarding the gate. The Capitán turned to Sergeant Garcia and nodded for him to bring Selena into his office for questioning. When he looked again the Señora was unconscious.

“But, Your Excellency, even you can see that Señora de la Vega has fainted ...”

“Curse you, Garcia! Then revive her quickly and bring her inside!”

“Si, Your Excellency!” Garcia climbed into the wagon and when he removed the ropes from her waist and wrists and breathed out his disgust when he saw the raw and bloody condition of her hands.

“Reyes, bring me some water pronto!”

Garcia splashed some water on his bandana and tenderly applied it over Selena’s face.

“T-hank you, sergeant. Want to drink ... water..” Selena muttered weakly. “Feel quite ill ...”

“Corporal Reyes, help me with the Señora,” Garcia ordered, “we must carry her into the commandante’s office!”

“At once, sergeant!”

“Sit here, Señora, please.” He went to a basin he knew was in the Commandante’s back room, filled it with cool water and wet a clean cloth. When Garcia returned, Glorioso was standing next to her glaring at him.

“I DID NOT ORDER HER BONDS TO BE REMOVED, SERGEANT!” his voice rocked the tiny office. She might have escaped! Baboso!”

”Do ... not the blame the good sergeant, your excellency. I pleaded with him to do this favor for me. It is ... entirely my fault,” Selena insisted as she pressed the wet cloth against her forehead.

“Get out of my sight, Garcia! I will deal with you shortly!” Glorioso refastened the ropes and tied her arms behind her to the back of the chair. He grinned as he focused his eyes on her chest, where the fabric of her blouse was pulled taut across her bosom by the restraints.

Sergeant Garcia did not like leaving Selena de la Vega alone with the Commandante. He raised his head to put on his hat and saw Corporal Reyes motioning for him.

“Why has the Señora been arrested, Sergeant?“

“The Señora is accused of treason.’’ Garcia said quietly. But you and I know that this is a stupid charge. All I know is that the Commandante is desperate to capture El Zorro and he will do anything, use anyone in any way he sees fit to get the Fox!’

“Sergeant?”

“Si,” Garcia replied, his gaze never leaving the door of Glorioso’s office.

“I am very worried about the Señora.”

“You and me both, Corporal.”

 

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

 

“Remain calm, Selena. Oh, may I call you by your Christian name?” De Estrada whispered, his voice as smooth as silk.

“You ... already have Your Excellency.” she replied keeping her eyes straight ahead.

“Indeed.“ Then Glorioso examined her face closely. “You are not faking, you are ill,” he noted with surprise.

“S-something I ate last night...” Selena forced herself to sit erect and not look into those demonic eyes.

“Indeed. Do not fear, I shall not hurt you, just yet. At least, not very badly.”

Then he slapped her and Selena’s head seemed to whirl in every direction. He grinned maniacally as he saw a thin stream of blood trickle from her lips.

 

 

END OF CHAPTER 35

 

 

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