“Your pardon, Señorita. The caballero at the
bar says that you have an appointment with him at six thirty tonight, said
one of the barkeepers to Diego’s dining companion.
Furious at being interrupted, Carlita whirled around to
see the gentleman in question. Her grimace quickly became a broad grin.
The caballero was obviously drunk as his nose was beet red and he
nearly fell as he greeted her from the bar. And there was a much
younger man with him. Ah, it
will take very little effort to relieve these two of more than just a few
pesos, she chuckled to herself.
Diego swallowed his surprise because he knew Carlita’s
older client for this evening, Don Guillermo Perez, but he was shocked at
seeing Don Alfredo’s nephew, Don Stefano, here in the posada with Señor
Perez. De la Vega dropped his head slightly and concentrated on smoking
his cigar. Of all the men Diego knew, young Stefano was the last person he
expected to see in this place. Hmm, it appears that the Fox has one
more important thing to do, he thought wryly.
“Sí, Pépé. It is Señor Guillermo Perez from San
Pedro. Bueno, you may inform the señor that I shall be with him
momentarily.” Carlita dismissively replied.
“Sí, Señorita Soto.”
Carlita hesitated, clearly waiting for Diego to ask her
to remain with him. Never pass up a chance to make money, she
thought as she slid her long delicately shaped fingers towards Diego’s
hand that rested on the table.
Again, Diego merely smiled and said nothing as he
secretly enjoyed her ill-concealed discomfort. Charming and persistent, but I do feel some pity for her. She
should lose interest in me very soon...
Finally, Señorita Soto rose from her chair and sneered
at him. “It has been ...”
“Interesting.” he finally commented. Diego reached
inside his heavily gold brocaded chaqueta and threw a single peso
onto the table. “For your valuable time, señorita. You must
excuse me. I also have an important appointment elsewhere.
Carlita extended her hand expecting Diego to treat her
as one of his female friends. The caballero merely stood there looking
down at her with an unreadable expression in his eyes. The “hospitality
lady” snorted angrily and made a deliberate show of slowly picking up
the money, withdrawing a pouch from the front of her blouse and tucking
same back into place. Then
Carlita huffily flounced toward the bar.
Don Diego watched half amused and half revolted as Señorita
Soto marched upstairs with her head held high while she and Don Stefano
trying to support a staggering Don Guillermo. Señorita, you have made
your bed and now you must lie in it, Diego sardonically noted as he
exited the posada to meet Bernardo.
The mozo had already finished the assignment that
his master had given him. When
he left Diego, Bernardo quickly found a hiding spot across the street with
an excellent view of La Casa’s front entrance. For the next
half-hour, he saw several of the local dons go inside. But he could hardly
believe his eyes when he spotted a very familiar young man look furtively
around the plaza to see if anyone had followed him.
No, it cannot be...yes it is!
Don Alfredo‘s nephew from Buena Vista!
What is his name? Si, I remember now.
Don Stefano José Alvarez, a mere boy.
He is only seventeen, not a man by any stretch of the imagination; Bernardo
snorted distastefully as he crept back into the carriage.
Diego knocked on the carriage door hoping to catch
Bernardo off guard but the mute continued nonchalantly gazing around the
plaza. Then Diego slapped his friend playfully on his shoulder. “Ah,
Bernardo, I can never trick you. Now tell me on the way home whom you have
seen patronize Commandante Glorioso’s establishment tonight.
I am afraid that I only saw two dons whom I recognized. One was Don
Guillermo Perez - a business associate of my father’s and the other was
Bernardo touched his master’s arm with a pitying look
in his eyes. He carefully signed the name of the caballero he had
seen. Don Alfredo’s nephew..”
“Don Stefano Alvarez,” Diego noted sadly. “Si. I recognized him
immediately and I am fairly certain that his uncle does not know of his
nephew’s involvement with La Casa. Perhaps El Zorro might pay a
social call upon Don Alfredo and prevail on his good graces to monitor his
nephew’s nocturnal activities. Then we should further memorialize the
evening for young Alvarez by favoring him with a personal interview with
El Zorro, eh?”
Bernardo nodded his head rapidly and smiled.
“The night is still young my friend.
Where is your sense of adventure?” Diego chuckled as he motioned
for Bernardo to hurry home.
In response Bernardo’s grin grew larger. How he wished
he could see young Stefano’s face when Zorro confronted him!
Zorro climbed aboard his horse, Tornado, and rushed from
the secret cave into the dark black night. The only hope that the Masked
Avenger had in disrupting the Commandante's misbegotten business was to
scare away his customers, the dons, who were the backbone of Capitán
This, as Zorro knew, would not be an easy task. As a man
he certainly realized the attraction that a forbidden female presented to
members of his sex. Like most of the members of the hidalgo class,
a don would not think twice about considering women of questionable
reputation as suitable wives. The
men who frequented Capitán Glorioso's business would not even regard
those women as human beings with any sort of feelings. And many of the caballeros
that Diego de la Vega personally knew had supported mistresses for the
majority of their entire married lives. This practice was simply second
nature to a great number of Spanish men of the upper classes.
The Masked Avenger realized the delicacy of this
situation. Although he privately disapproved visiting prostitutes, he was
far more concerned with the welfare of the women working for the
Commandante. He also had to impress upon the caballeros not only
were they contributing to the success of an illegal enterprise but
together with Glorioso the dons were also responsible for the degradation
of the poor unfortunate females forced to work in such a place. Zorro
sighed inwardly. Then there was the matter of Don Alfredo Alvarez’s
nephew. Had he not witnessed the young man entering the La Casa he
would not have believed it. If his uncle only knew what Stefano had been
doing in the Pueblo at night he would probably flog him.
Don Alfredo's hacienda was not very far from the
de la Vega estate. Zorro had
to be careful riding at night near this hacienda because it was very close
to the La Brea tar pits. He chuckled to himself as he remembered the time
when Zorro tricked Capitan Monastario and his group of lancers into riding
directly into the sticky and awful smelling tars.
He certainly did not want to want to spend the remainder of the
night and most of the following day trying to remove far from his black
silk costume! Tornado
skillfully picked his way across the countryside as the stallion galloped
wards his master's destination.
The animal halted automatically before the hacienda
without a spoken command. Zorro
looked up at the massive three-story structure in awe. The hacienda
was much larger than his father's place and was surrounded by a six-foot
high stone wall. Don Alejandro's old friend had always lived
ostentatiously, and far beyond his means. Don Alfredo prided himself on
his collections of 16th century Spanish art and gold plate. The Fox had
always felt that this casa was more a museum than a home whenever
he and his father visited "El Grande Sueño," [the Great
Dream] as Don Alfredo called his hacienda.
Climbing over the wall was relatively easy, and once he
was on the hacienda’s grounds he quietly unbolted the gate and
let Tornado in. Surprisingly,
there was light shining from Don Alfredo’s window. Odd, because the
older man always retired before nine p.m. Perhaps he is doing the
annual rancho’s inventory. Zorro thought as he alighted on the
balcony outside Don Alfredo’s room and peered inside. But the hidalgo
Mother, where have I erred in raising my nephew? Several times I have
expressed my disgust with his visits to La Casa! Stefano is an
orphan and I have raised him as best as I could for the past decade. I have taught him the tenets of our beliefs, yet he insists
upon visiting that ...house of ...”
“Good evening,” Zorro said from his perch on the
don’s windowsill, “and your pardon for this late night intrusion, Don
“Senor Zorro! It is good ah ... to see you again!
But, as you can see I am about to retire,” the old man replied.
The Fox nodded. “Don
Alfredo, I shall be brief. Since you are already aware of Don Stefano’s
trips into the Pueblo, I am asking you for your help.
If you can aid me in persuading the other influential men in the
district to boycott Capitán Glorioso’s La Casa, we can force the
Commandante to shut down his immoral business.“
Don Alfredo’s face brightened with renewed hope.
“Si, Si! I can call a meeting in my home ...”
Zorro waved his hand. “No, Senor.
We want this anti-prostitution crusade to be very much undercover.
The capitán has paid informants everywhere.
You have already spoken with young Stefano and now I shall speak to
him. Con tu permiso?”
“Gladly given Senor.” Don Alfredo smiled. But I will
have, shall we say, individual consultations with several of my friends
who ... support the Commandante’s establishment.”
“Bueno. As I must reiterate, Don Alfredo, we
have to be very careful about discussing these plans with anyone else
except perhaps Don Alejandro. Hasta la vista.”
Zorro pitched a quick salute to the caballero and then
evaporated into the night. When he returned to Tornado, the great black
horse was shaking his head toward the gate.
“Someone is coming?” I hope it is young Stefano.
I must convince the youth to forego taking his pleasure at a house of ill
repute. His parents, the late
Don Leon Alvarez and Doña Katira Alvarez de Mazatlan, would be turning in
their graves if they could see their son’s risque behavior! Zorro noted grimly to himself.
Tornado’s right front hoof struck the ground once. Yes.
“Just one rider?” the Fox asked his mount.
Again the stallion raised his right hoof and tapped once.
Zorro pulled Tornado into the shadows with him.
“Ah, sí. It is Señor Stefano. He has returned from his
‘rendezvous’ in the pueblo. Bueno. I shall endeavor to provide
him with some unexpected entertainment I hope he will never forget.
Remain here my friend, I shan’t be long,” the Fox whispered to
the black stallion.
END OF CHAPTER FOUR