THE CAPITAN’S MERCY
the hands of the devil himself ...
make no sound. Good, Señora de la Vega. Now you will tell me
about your joint scheme with Zorro will you not? Well?” The
severity of Visconde’ Estrada’s voice made her wince again from the
pain of his cruel blow.
cautiously worked her jaw, amazed that she could still move it all.
“Does it matter, Your Excellency? Regardless of what I say you will
not believe me.”
sighed in exasperation. “I shall prove that you conspired with the
Fox! I have a signed affidavit from an eyewitness!” The Commandante
lightly touched her shoulders, tracing the outline of her neck with his
fingertips. She jerked her body but she was unable to move at all thanks
to the knots Glorioso tied in the ropes. “Señora de la Vega, I
honestly do not wish to harm you, but ...”
closed her eyes. “Do your worst. When Judge Vasca realizes that you
have brutalized me ...”
collapsed into his red leather chair and guffawed until he could
scarcely breathe. “For an intelligent woman such as yourself, you are
incredibly naive! The judge will not hear your case because I will not
send for him! By the time that Don Alejandro or your precious Diego can
possibly contact His Honor, you and Zorro will be dead!” Glorioso
moved toward her and viciously pulled her head back and pressed his lips
on her mouth. “So soft...” he
Selena shuddered involuntarily both from the force of his grip and her
revulsion from being touched by this rabid violator of women...
number of frenzied people running throughout the Pueblo De Los
Angeles’s plaza astonished Don Alejandro and Don Diego de la Vega.
Garbage and debris littered the dusty but usually well maintained
the vantage point on their horses, the hidalgos could see that
many windows of La Casa de Hospitalidad were shattered and the
jagged remnants of glass almost completely covered the dirt area in
front of the Posada.
Estrada had instructed Corporal Peldar just before the lancer led Selena
into his office to take a squadron of soldiers and disperse the
“rabble.” He also ordered Peldar to do whatever he liked with anyone
refusing to leave the plaza. After the Commandante had secured Selena
again with restraints, Glorioso positioned himself atop the platform he
had earlier constructed to provide an aerial view of the events
transpiring in the plaza. This vantage point satisfied both his lust for
chaos and also enabled Glorioso to keep visual track of Corporal
Peldar’s execution of his orders.
my sainted ancestors!” Alejandro exclaimed. “This is madness! Utter
Diego responded dourly. “And this destruction represents the despair
of citizens pushed too far! Look at the soldiers,” he pointed to the
middle of the plaza. “Dios! They are going to fire into the crowd!”
Diego started to spur his chestnut horse forward but his father grabbed
my son, not just yet.”
rifles fired simultaneously. To their immense relief, Commandante
Glorioso had told the lancers to fire above the crowd. Both men watched
as the lancers reloaded their weapons as Peldar prepared to give the
signal to fire again. But this time, the soldiers’ guns were aimed
directly at the mob. Diego tore the reins loose from his father’s
hands and forced his mount toward the front of the mob.
por favor! This is not the way! You will all be slaughtered! For your
families’ sakes, return to your homes!”
Diego,” asked Señor Alemania, one of the Pueblo’s regidores
[councilmen], you stand before us and ask that we allow
Commandante Glorioso to trample our rights as citizens?”
please heed the words of Don Diego.” Alcalde Baltazar urged.
young caballero replied. “Yes, I can. You must have seen the
commandante arrest my wife. Although the charges are false,” here
Diego, paused and turned to aim his next words directly at the lancers,
“I shall abide by the due process of law. My father and I have already
sent word to Judge Vasca!”
Alemana raised his arms above the crowd. “I trust the words of Don
Diego and his father, my fellow citizens. Let us withdraw and return to
our homes!” He and several of the members of the cabildo began
ushering people out of the plaza.
the younger de la Vega pleaded with the Angelinos to leave the
plaza, Commandante Glorioso slipped back inside the Cuartel and ran back
to his office. It would appear that I must permit Don Diego to
visit his wife much earlier than expected, Glorioso swore under his
breath, I had better compose myself...
waited until the majority of the crowd was out of earshot before
dismounting and angrily striding up through the lancers preventing
anyone from entering the Cuartel and demanding to speak with Glorioso.
Garcia yelled at the soldiers to permit Don Diego to enter the Cuartel.
course, mi amigo. I shall personally ask His Excellency myself.
Please wait here, Don Diego.”
Garcia knocked on Glorioso’s door. “Your Excellency, Don Diego is
here demanding to see the Señora.”
opened his door and saw Don Diego unsuccessfully trying to push the
lancers blocking his path out of the way. Garcia realized the frustrated
Glorioso would shoot his friend if he did not do something. Think,
Demetrio, think ...
pardon, Excellency, perhaps you should permit Señor de la Vega to see
his wife. If he knew the Señora was being well treated ... “ Garcia
suggested, hoping Glorioso would catch his meaning.
commandante stared at Garcia. “O-of course, make Señora de la Vega as
comfortable as possible,” he whispered to the sergeant, “shall we
say in fifteen minutes then Don Diego?” Glorioso said aloud to the
Vega’s hazel eyes were unreadable but he forced himself to smile. “Ten
minutes, Commandante.” Don Diego purposely glowered at the
Commandante’s retreating back. I shall give you no more time,
Glorioso. I will not wait until I transform myself into the Fox to exact
my revenge, he vowed to himself.
inside his office, Glorioso ordered Sergeant Garcia to release her ropes
and escort Selena into his private quarters so he could help her clean
her bloody wrists.
you sergeant, once again, for your kindnesses. Ohh.” Selena winced as
he cleaned her wrists.
pardon , Señora. There, that is the best I can do.”
sergeant,” Selena replied as she leaned forward and lightly touched
his face. “Don Diego shall hear of your concern for me.”
then Glorioso returned to his bedroom unannounced and yelled for
Sergeant Garcia to get out. Selena washed her face under the Capitán’s
smoldering glare. She turned her back to him, tucked her blouse into her
riding skirt and redressed her hair.
will do Selena. You are going to have company in about three minutes, he
said as he yanked her against him and whispered roughly into her ear.
“Behave or I shall kill your beloved here and now!”
shuddered and turned away from his leering face.
sí, I will do so unless you manage to convince your husband that you
have not been mistreated. It will be our little secret.” His cologne
overpowered her senses and she nearly fainted. He then very gently led
her by the hand back to the chair opposite his desk.
heart almost stopped when she heard a knock on the door. Oh, Diego!
Please, beloved, control your temper. She prayed fervently.
Glorioso called out as he poured three glasses of Madeira.
walked as calmly as he could to Selena and pulled her to him and
tenderly kissed her. “Are you all right, querida? he asked
quietly, although he clearly saw the terror etched on her face.
nodded wordlessly, seeing that Diego did read her fear in her eyes. He
squeezed her hands and she trembled. Diego began to check her wrists
when she whispered ‘plus tarde’ [later]. He nodded and helped
her back to her seat.
knew how furious Diego was by the subtle changes in his body language.
Two muscles twitched on the left side of his face and he subconsciously
smoothed back his hair. Diego focused his entire being exclusively on
the source of his irritation, as his warm hazel eyes became
Madeira, Don Diego?”
wordlessly handed a glass of wine first to Selena and then watched her
drink a few sips but no more. “Enough beloved?” he inquired softly.
mon coeur. I feel a little better.” Diego reached out and
gently touched the bruise that had formed on her mouth. He winced
inwardly but said nothing. Control, caballero. Glorioso is just
salivating at the thought of you losing your temper. Well, Diego, you
are just going to have to disappoint him.
are your intentions regarding my wife's case?"
Glorioso smiled thinly. “Of course Don Diego, I have also sent for
abruptly turned to Selena and her sarcastic look confirmed what he
already knew. De Estrada is lying, do not believe anything he says,
he arrives in forty-eight hours he will preside at her trial. I have an
affidavit sworn by a witness who will testify that your wife conspired
with El Zorro to obstruct justice and interfere with the duty of the
fiscal authority of the colony of Alta California."
Diego merely arched his eyebrow. "In what way did my wife interfere
with the government of Alta California?”
aiding and abetting a criminal named Zorro to urge the citizenry not to
pay taxes to the Spanish Crown.“ the Commandante sneered. De Estrada
then produced a document from his desk drawer. With great flourish he
began to read the affidavit:
Tomas Ballarias, do hereby swear that I saw one Señora Selena de la
Vega y de Rojas meet with the outlaw known as El Zorro on the 10th
day of October, eighteen hundred and twenty one. At said meeting, said
female citizen of the Pueblo de Los Angeles, did plot to interfere with
the collection of various imperial taxes by local tax authority, the
Viscount de Estrada, Juan Ramon Glorioso. I both heard and saw said
female citizen agree with El Zorro that the populace should be given
money for food, clothing and shelter and not for the payment of taxes
due on the first day [later changed to the third day of November, one
thousand eight hundred and twenty one.
I, Tomas Ballarias, do also swear that I did witness on the same date,
the 19th day of October, eighteen hundred and twenty-one, Señora
Selena de la Vega y de Rojas, discuss with the outlaw known as El
Zorro, ways to incite the peons of the Pueblo de Los Angeles to revolt
against the local legal authority, namely the Viscount de Estrada, Juan
by me and witnessed by me, Tomas Ballarias, tailor, in the Pueblo of Los
Angeles, this fourth day of November, in the year of our Lord, One
Thousand Eight Hundred and Twenty-one.“
Ballarias?" Diego was dumbfounded. "I cannot believe that
Señor Ballarias would even consider that Selena would be capable of
committing such crimes. Your methods of persuasion must have been
particularly inventive. Of course you will produce Señor Ballarias at
the trial?" de la Vega sputtered impatiently.
replied Commandante affably, "Señor Ballarias is most eager to see
that justice is done in this case. He volunteered this
information, of course." Glorioso returned Diego's hostile look
daring him to question his word.
thought briefly and said “Will you accept bail for the Señora de la
Vega?” He had to reassure Selena that he was trying every means at his
disposal to free her for her own safety.
I do not trust either you or Zorro not to hide her from the Spanish
Crown!” Glorioso snarled.
briefly clenched and unclenched his fists. To Hades with waiting to
deal with this monster as El Zorro! IF only I could get my hands
... he silently argued with himself.
saw his valiant efforts to corral his emotions so Glorioso would not
have a reason to arrest Diego also and prayed even harder for husband to
Diego rose and said through gritted teeth “Very well. I shall return
tomorrow to see my wife.” Diego rose and stood toe to toe with the
Visconde, daring de Estrada to deny him access to Selena.
of course. May I say Señor de la Vega that you are taking the news
regarding your wife’s treason very well? Most husbands would not be as
... understanding as you,” de Estrada said smoothly, deliberately
trying to bait him. Diego merely bowed and turned to embrace Selena.
you manana, sweetheart.” His hazel eyes met hers and the
anguish she saw there over his inability to release her from this
madman’s diabolical control nearly rendered her heart in two.
The Visconde pulled them apart and, as he pushed de Estrada away, Diego said evenly, “Do not ever touch me again, ‘your excellency‘! Never again!” The caballero repeated his warning “NEVER!” He kissed Selena’s hands and departed before he would succumb to the urge to throttle Glorioso.
bastard struck her, father! And the ropes tied by that raton
chafed her wrists enough to make them bleed. Dios, give me strength! Mi
preciosa Selena!” Diego’s ire finally exploded on the ride home.
“I wanted to commit murder!”
Alejandro allowed Diego to rant because he needed the emotional release.
Perhaps now he will tell me now that he is El Zorro. “I wonder
what the Fox will do regarding this matter?" his father wondered
Diego declined to take the opening offered by Don Alejandro. They rode
together in silence until they reached the hacienda. His father
tried a different tactic.
did Dr. Avila say regarding the cause of Selena’s illness?“ he asked
Diego turned to face him his eyes were moist. “Father, Selena is with
is wonderful, Diego!” Don Alejandro excitedly replied, but then he
fully understood his son’s emotional dilemma. “Madre di Dios! And
she is in the hands of that monster...”
if you will excuse me, I am going to retire to my room to consider the
next step I should take in this terrible matter. With your
permission." Diego bounded upstairs to his room and quickly went to
find Bernardo in the secret cave.
you are Bernardo. I have to tell you about the latest developments in
the Pueblo. Capitán Glorioso has decided to try Selena on charges of
treason and conspiracy against the Spanish Crown. He showed me an
affidavit signed by Tomas Ballarias as an eyewitness to meetings between
El Zorro and Selena when the Fox was distributing money to the peons so
they could pay the new taxes.”
searched Diego’s face for the confirmation regarding Amontildar’s
suspicion that the Señora was in a family way. Is there not
something else bothering you my master? Bernardo gently inquired.
OF CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX