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.
“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
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
“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
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 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
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
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
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
“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
“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
“FREE SEÑORA DE LA VEGA!” one man shouted! “SHE
IS INNOCENT!” "DOWN WITH COMMANDANTE GLORIOSO!” “SI! LET US
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
“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
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
“But, Your Excellency, even you can see that Señora
de la Vega has fainted ...”
“Curse you, Garcia! Then revive her quickly and bring
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.
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!’
“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.”
“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