The Promise

by

 

Gail Manfre

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER THIRTY-NINE

 

 

UNPLANNED RESCUE

 

 

 

Zorro shook his head. “No, Señora. Much as I want to kill Glorioso, he must be brought to justice! I am no murderer, neither are you,” he added.

“Señor, I can see the capitán has badly hurt you or someone you love in some way,” she softly replied, “what do you want me to do?”

“Something bold and dangerous. Tomorrow morning, you and the other ladies are to refuse to work, and ...”

“Refuse to work, El Zorro? You must be mad to think the patrons sleeping upstairs will cooperate with us! And what about Glorioso?” Señora Soto’s brown eyes mocked him.” The Visconde will not be happy when the posada does not open !”

The Fox held up his hands to stifle her protests. “I shall keep the Visconde occupied. You will not be entertaining any new customers since the townspeople will boycott the Posada.”

“Everyone? Including the dons?” Teresa asked bitterly. “The dons believe that the ladies working in La Casa are little more than so much trash. I... we ladies do not trust the dons, Señor Zorro!”

Especially the dons. With a bit of luck and careful strategy, the only patrons in the Posada Thursday morning will be those ‘overnight guests’ currently in residence on this floor.” the Fox responded confidently.

Teresa held her chin in her hands. “Hmm IF the dons do their part to help get rid of that muy grand raton Glorioso and IF the ladies believe they can trust los ricos!“

“Señora Teresa, all of you ladies can put your trust in me, can you not?” Zorro asked gently. “Come now, do you not have faith in the Fox?“

Teresa halted her pacing and gazed thoughtfully at him. “This just might work, Señor Zorro. Tell me your plan. By the way, most of our ‘guests’ are not asleep but are somewhat ..”

“... busy at the moment.” he concluded her statement for her as he laughed in a rich baritone. “Take whatever sleeping potions you have en casa and then....” Zorro bent down to whisper the remainder of his instructions. 

When the Fox stopped speaking, Teresa extended her hand for him to kiss and when he tried to do so, Teresa pressed her body and lips against his.

“That is my ‘fee’ for helping you,” Señora Soto said as she briefly rested her head on his broad shoulder.

Baffled, he asked, “And what will you charge for aiding Señora de la Vega?”

“Not even one centavo! Let us just say that the Señora is a wounded sister who needs my help. I will send word to Don Diego regarding his wife. And Señor Zorro, you know something, it feels good to be able to help someone ... besides myself, do you understand?”

Before leaving the way he entered her room, the Dark Angel brought her right hand up to his lips. Zorro tenderly caressed her hand after he kissed it.

“Oh, sí, Señora Soto, I know exactly what you mean!” he whispered as he Fox turned away, launched himself through her window and nimbly slid down the ladder he used to gain access to her room. Zorro leapt from the third rung of the ladder onto the patient Tornado’s saddle and headed his mount toward the Church of the Blessed Sacrament.

 

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

 

No sooner than Zorro had departed when Glorioso’s men burst into Teresa Soto’s room and hauled her roughly downstairs. The Commandante was elated at the thought he would have the opportunity to finally dispose of her.

“Because of your histrionics, puta, Señora de la Vega is unconscious. God help your miserable hide if she dies, for your death will! be protracted and infinitely painful!” Glorioso shouted venomously at her. He then sent Corporal Peldar and Lancer Gomez outside to see if any of the péons were loitering in the plaza or for any sign that El Zorro might be nearby.

“Mi Capitán!” Peldar reported back to Glorioso. “Everything is calm. I can not see anyone.”

The Commandante shouted up to Lancer Hugo if he could verify the corporal’s report. Hugo stood on the special ledge Glorioso had constructed around the inside perimeter so the soldiers could have a clear view of the area immediately surrounding the plaza.

“Sí, mi Commandante, all clear.”

Glorioso’s men crept slowly from the cuartel and cautiously looked around. The plaza was deserted.

Interesting, the Commandante observed to himself, that no one is defying the martial law edict. And the barricades placed earlier in front of the cuartel’s gate have been pulled aside. But the ever vigilant and paranoid capitán further ordered the lancers to thoroughly canvass the plaza and to check the nearby alleys. Soon Corporal Peldar and Lancer Santos reported no activity in the immediate area.

However, one of Don Alejandro’s vaqueros, Jorge Manuelo, and Jacinto, an Indian who worked at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament, watched the capitán’s activities from their hiding place atop the roof of the butcher’s shop across the plaza from the cuartel.

“Madre di Dios!” Manuelo exclaimed as he watched the lancers drag Teresa Soto kicking and screaming to the whipping post. “Mira, the commandante is going to whip poor Teresa! Run and tell El Zorro. He just rode towards the church! I will come right behind you! Hurry, Jacinto, hurry!”

Jacinto sprinted as fast as his legs could move. Zorro was about to dismount from Tornado when the Indian called out to the Fox.

“Señor Zorro! the capitán is going to whip Señora Soto in the middle of the plaza! Come quickly!”

“Sí, Zorro, an out of breath Manuelo echoed. “You must hurry!”

The Fox noticed Jacinto was carrying his bow and arrows. “Dios! Jorge, you tell Don Alejandro to bring a small group of vaqueros but do not interfere with Glorioso’s actions yet. Jacinto, you come with me!!” the Masked Avenger said to the Indian.

Glorioso ordered a dozen lancers to escort him to the whipping post in the marketplace. He grinned when he saw Teresa struggle to free herself.

“Well, Teresa, I did warn you not to provoke me!” Glorioso said smugly. You will soon beg for mercy but I will ignore your pleas!

Teresa screamed as one of the lancers ripped open the back of her peasant blouse.

“NO! MI CAPITAN! POR DIOS, NO!” she cried piteously, knowing all too well that horrible pain awaited her. And Teresa knew Glorioso would not stop the flogging until she was dead.

Visconde de Estrada calmly removed his uniform jacket and handed it to Corporal Peldar. He patiently cracked his bullwhip closer and closer to his terrified victim’s back.

“CRACK!” The first blow landed squarely across Teresa’s already scarred shoulders. She screamed even louder and this only drove him into a greater fury. Glorioso arched the bullwhip for the second blow, which he fully intended to strike in the exact same place as the first stroke. Just as moved his arm forward to follow through with the next blow, a flaming arrow sliced through the upraised whip.

“For shame, Commandante! To have such little respect for the fairer sex! What would your mother say?” El Zorro’s mocking baritone drifted down to Glorioso’s ears.

Capitán Glorioso spun around, drawn saber in hand as he dropped his burning whip. “ZORRO!“ he yelled in frustration. “Coward! Show yourself!”

“Always happy to oblige you, commandante. But business before pleasure.” Two more flaming arrows flew through the air in rapid succession. They both landed on the whipping post where the wood immediately began burning. “Release Señora Soto now, or I shall bury the next one in your chest!“ El Zorro threatened. This time the Fox revealed himself to be standing atop the posada’s roof. He drew the bow tighter. “I am waiting, Your Excellency!”

Reluctantly, Glorioso ordered Corporal Peldar to cut Teresa down.

“You will also permit Teresa to be escorted by these men, Zorro pointed to a group of de la Vega vaqueros who had ridden into the Capitan’s view at Zorro‘s signal, to the sanctuary of the Church of the Blessed Sacrament on the far side of the plaza!”

Zorro kept a flaming arrow aimed directly at Glorioso’s chest until the commandante told the vaqueros to remove her from his sight. “Excellente mi capitán! You also forgot one useful lesson from your mother-- never play with fire!” The Fox’s hearty laughs at his public humiliation unnerved Glorioso. Despite the audible snickering from the lancers he had to at least maintain the pretense of being in control of his emotions. I am a Grandee, the Visconde de Estrada. These men are mere peasants and by the Virgin, El Zorro will die under my whip.

The Fox shot two more arrows into the wooden post. Satisfied that the Capitán’s sadistic toy was completely afire, he disappeared from view.

Return to the Cuartel, lancers!” he sullenly ordered as he watched the fire consume his cherished whipping post.

 

ZZZZZZZZZZZZ

 

Teresa Soto argued with Benito, the de la Vegas’ head vaquero, as he attempted to bring her to safety at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament.

"But I agreed to help El Zorro by closing down the Posada! Raton! Let me go!" she screamed as she wriggled free from his grasp, kicked him in the shins for good measure, and made her way back to the kitchen entrance of La Casa.

“Carrumba, mujer!” Benito said as he rubbed his right leg. “Don Alejandro and El Zorro will both have my hide if anything happens to the señorita now. Juan, inform the patrón that I and three of the vaqueros are remaining at the Posada to protect Teresa Soto."

"Sí, immediamente, Benito!"

When Teresa arrived at the Posada she quickly called a meeting of the working ladies of Comandante Glorioso's La Casa de Hospitalidad. "I have promised the Fox that tomorrow morning we will not be working for the commandante any longer. We will not serve drinks and we will not prepare any food. And most important of all, WE WILL NOT SERVICE ANY OF THE MALE CUSTOMERS! Are you with me señoras and señoritas?"

Juanita Montecuma Flores jumped her feet. "Of course! I shall no longer obey that canaille Glorioso! He cannot kill us all. Besides we shall not be acting alone will we, Teresa?"

Señora Soto nodded. "Correct. In the morning the peons will not visit the pueblo’s marketplace to shop, as the tradesmen will keep their shops shuttered."

Flores grasped Teresa’s arm. “What about los hombres ricos, the dons? Why would they want to help us?”

Señorita Gonzalez frowned. "Teresa, we have no good reason to trust the dons who think we are lower than dirt!”

Several other women at echoed her sentiment. "The dons!" Juanita spit on the floor and shouted "One can not trust the dons!"

Teresa yelled for order. "Estupidas! Listen to me! I have El Zorro's promise. I trust the Fox and I am willing to bet my life on it. He has pledged on his honor to me that the dons are using their vaqueros to gain control of the cuartel. And have you forgotten Don Diego's brave endurance of his flogging? He very easily could have done nothing and permitted that animal Glorioso to torture the Tintero brothers. Well?" The grande puta strode up and down the length of La Casa’s main room as she scraped her blood red painted nails against her black cotton embroidered skirt. “I am waiting, ladies, and I have no patience as you well know!"

Flores and Gonzales grunted in unison. "Sí, what have women like us left to lose? Our reputations? Our self-respect?"

Teresa pointed an index finger at Juanita Flores. "Exactemente! We can we redeem something of our pride as females. Are you with me?"

Maria Gonzales, Carmelita Castillo, Juanita Flores led the rest of the women as they all yelled their agreement. "Si, Si, Si! We will take care of those bastardos sleeping upstairs in a way they never expected."

"Bueno. Here is what we must do,” said Teresa Soto, “we will give our guests some drugged wine as soon as possible. Second, after we drug the men we gag and bind them to their beds. Then Don Alejandro's vaqueros will escort us back to the Church. Now hurry up! We have a lot of work to do before dawn Friday!"

 

 

END OF CHAPTER THIRTY-NINE

 

 

 

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