The Promise

by

 

Gail Manfre

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER FORTY

 

 

EMISSARY

 

 

From his vantage point atop the posada’s roof across the street from the cuartel, Zorro watched the anger and resentment building in Glorioso’s strident form as the Visconde stalked back into his wretched cuartel.  Por Dios, do not allow Selena to suffer any more at the Capitan’s hands, the Fox thought soberly. He glanced heavenward.  At least I have rescued one soul, Teresa Soto, from Glorioso’s vengeance. Zorro yawned.  Am so exhausted that I wish I could rest here on Tornado ...so very tired.  He removed his hat and wiped the perspiration from his neck and face before leaping from the roof onto his black stallion. As Zorro spurred his mount toward the de la Vega estate, Tornado perceived his master’s fatigue and propelled his four legs as swiftly as he could for home.

Weary as Zorro was when he returned to the secret cave, he immediately asked Bernardo to draw some hot water for a much-needed bath. Half an hour later Bernardo found Diego outside his bedroom staring up at the first stars sparkling in their nocturnal camouflage in the inky dark sky. His mozo touched his arm and signed that his bath water was ready.

Come my master, the heat of the water will relax your strained muscles. You will not do anyone any good if you are not rested enough for tomorrow’s activities.

His manservant saw the dejection in Diego’s hazel eyes and that they were once again filled with tears. 

No, my young, master, do not torture yourself regarding situations beyond your control.  I am certain that Señora Selena will be fine.  Trust in Zorro’s --your abilities and in the power of the Almighty! Bernardo pleaded with Diego.  By assuming that burden of blame, you are giving Glorioso control over you.

Sí, Bernardo, you are wiser than I am. This is a situation beyond my control; I am not responsible for the monster that Juan Glorioso, Viscount de Estrada, has become. He has made himself what he is today: vain, greedy and cruel. Look at poor Conchetta Reyes and Carlita Soto.“ Diego paused, emotion choking his voice. “And my dear Selena. He... that animal touched Selena...” Diego unashamedly let his tears course down his face. “Ah, Sweet Savior, I have yet to learn this important lesson ... I can not save everyone.”

Bernardo nodded in agreement. My young friend, you can only rise each morning and do the best you can do with whatever talents God has favored you with. Come, ‘tis time for you to relax in the soothing bath and then off to bed.”

Diego luxuriated in the steamy hot water for nearly an hour and only reluctantly emerged when Bernardo told him it was midnight. But Diego doubted he would find rest easier tonight especially after his conversation with Dr. Avila regarding Selena’s medical condition. The young hidalgo rubbed out the cubaño puro he had just lit and idly swirled the brandy in his glass that Bernardo placed on his night table. Bernardo watched his master toying with drink, eagerly hoping Diego would toss the alcohol down and let the brandy work its usual somnolent effect on him.

The lithe caballero rose from his seat and stepped out on his balcony and gazed up at the sky. Night’s darkness covering the earth like a benevolent cloak richly shot through not with diamonds, emerald or rubies but with the fiery beauty of stars, nebulae and constellations suspended in space.

Ah, Diego mused, Orion the Hunter is starting its westward descent and in a few hours will be hidden by the golden rays of sunrise.  As a student, he had spent many hours peering through a telescope at University in Madrid, particularly fascinated by the Constellation Orion, the most prominent and famous seasonal celestial guidepost in the winter sky of the Northern Hemisphere. This constellation’s appearance in the fall heralded the beginning of the growing seasons in most ancient civilizations, from the Sumerians to Mesoamerican indigenous people. Diego he did not require a telescope to see the one of the brightest stars in the heavens, the giant star Rigel. Diego then raised his head almost directly north of Rigel and remembering his astronomy, called out the names of the super giant stars that composed Orion’s belt, from west to east, Mintaka, Arabic for belt; Alnilam, “belt of pearls,” and Alnitak, or “girdle.”  Beneath the silvery-blue glow of these three stellar gems, lay the exceedingly bright “Orion Nebula,” a cloud of reddish stardust, which can also be seen by the naked eye.

Diego favored the Greek myth regarding the origin of the constellation came to appear in the night sky. Orion, a hunter, had boasted to everyone that no creature on earth could defeat him.  Legend tells of Orion becoming the lover of the Greek Virgin Goddess of the forest and the hunt, Artemis. She and her brother, Apollo, the Sun God, were Immortals and the twin children of the chief Greek Deity, Zeus. Orion was a giant and a demigod, the offspring of a mortal woman and the Greek god of the Sea, Poseidon. When Artemis told her brother she was madly in love with Orion, Apollo realized that if she wed Orion, she would lose all her godlike powers. To spare her this fate, Apollo sent a huge scorpion to kill Orion. The Sun God’s assassin tracked Orion relentlessly all over the earth, until Orion, exhausted after fighting his divine stalker, fled into his father’s kingdom, the sea. But just as Orion leapt into the water, the scorpion stung Orion in his ankle and the hunter died soon thereafter. Artemis was inconsolable over her loss and Zeus permitted her to place Orion in the sky as a constellation so she could be near him for eternity.

Diego made an immediate connection of Glorioso’s megalomania with Orion’s fatal prideful boasting. The commandante, flush with the initial financial success of his La Casa de Hospitalidad, was not satisfied with gains from his profane business. Visconde de Estrada proceeded to levy taxes at will, and the number of peons unable to pay the new taxes swelled the copper mine chain gangs and crews of ship captains at San Pedro. Glorioso had ruthlessly murdered three women who worked in his posada, murders El  Zorro had been unable to prevent.  Despite the Fox’s best efforts the posada, until recently still prospered, peons bore the brunt of Glorioso’s wrath, and  now his cherished wife, Selena lay ravished and imprisoned in the capitán’s cuartel. No wonder Glorioso felt invincible.  The Visconde de  Estrada was so narcissistic he strutted like a peacock around the pueblo of  Los Angeles as its lord and  master. He was the omnipotent hunter and the Angelenos were his prey. But this time El Zorro enjoyed the full support of all the people of Los Ángeles, and, like the fabled Scorpion, the Fox would pursue Glorioso relentlessly and kill his insane adversary if necessary. Just as a divine creature defeated Orion, the evil festering in Glorioso would fall before the actions and strength of good, in the form of the Masked Avenger, El Zorro.  Pride goeth before a fall, relates the Bible, and Visconde de Estrada, you shall fall quite hard. My poor Selena I promise that this is the first and only night you will be in Glorioso’s clutches. The young hidalgo pledged to himself as he finished the brandy.  By the time Diego reached his bed, he was yawning broadly. I must truly be fatigued. So sleepy....

The sound of his master’s snoring was music to a pair of servants‘ ears. Bernardo looked at Amontildar and grinned.

“Ah, cher, you done listened to dis Creole femme for once! See, he be fast in de sleep!” Amontildar said as she held up a lantern for Bernardo and herself as they made their way back to their quarters. “I been worried ‘bout ze young Monsieur Diego, yes!”

Bernardo nodded. Sí, his hands barely visible in the fading lantern’s light whirled seamlessly, teamwork, Amontildar, teamwork!

D’accord, cher, what you say be so true!”  She planted a  kiss on  the mozo’s cheek. “En plus tard, [later]Bernardo.” The octaroon said over her shoulder.

Diego’s mozo lightly touched the spot on his cheek Amontildar had kissed. My, my!  If my master could see how embarrassed I am!

 

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

 

Jorge Paco, Don Alejandro's manservant, finally made his way to Monterey late Tuesday night.  He was very careful to avoid the Visconde of Granada’s

personal guards who always surrounded the Gobernador's office.  Fortunately Jorge spotted the new governor's mozo, Pedro.  Since it was a moonless night he did not have to worry about being seen lurking along the edges of buildings. Jorge crept along the side of the governor's personal quarters, keeping a close eye out for lancers’ patrols, which he knew passed every half-hour. Just as he was ready to emerge from the shadows, his sharp hearing detected a group of soldiers marching in his direction.  Jorge clung to the wall and held his breath.  Like most soldiers, the governor's guard saw only what they were trained to see. They never thought to look into the darkness for an enemy.

Jorge saw his friend Pedro through the room rear window of Gobernador Sola's office. When Pedro happened to turn his head toward him, Jorge made the tribal sign to come outside to speak with him. The governor's manservant nodded imperceptibly in agreement.  Not ten minutes later Pedro made his way outside to see his old friend.

“Pedro Gomez!” Jorge Paco whispered behind his friend’s back.

Gomez turned slowly around. “Ah, Jorge!” Pedro smiled at Jorge Paco because he had not seen the Chiricahua Apache in a very long time.  "I heard you are working for Don Ricardo del‘Amo. How is the little raton?“

"Quite unlike his gentle father.” Paco shook his disgustedly. Now I work for Don Alejandro de la Vega.”

"The de la Vegas are truly kind and good people, Jorge! You are most fortunate.  Tell me my friend, what brings you in the middle of the night to Monterey?" Pedro kept his voice low as his eyes darted around and his muscles relaxed, always alert for the sounds of trouble.

Jorge Paco whispered  "I must see Gobernador Sola at once. I have message for him from Don Alejandro. It very important."

Pedro looked funny at him. “But Jorge, I am afraid Gobernador Sola is asleep now."

Jorge shook his head.  “Pedro, I must speak with him now! My patron, Don Alejandro, say I talk to Gobernador and I obey my master!"

Pedro saw the determination his friend’s eyes and acquiesced.  "Come with me through the back way. I shall help you." Jorge's tribal friend led him through the various hallways of Gobernador Sola’s quarters directly outside governor's bedroom.  They both looked at the guard stationed outside the official’s door wondering how they were going to be able to get rid of him.  Pedro suddenly had an idea.

“Jorge, I will tell the lancer on duty that I must bring His Excellency’s medication immediately but I can not do so unless he accompanies me to the farmacia.  The sergeant should listen to me.  The rest you must do."

The Chumash Indian called to the soldier and said "Sergeant, please take me to the farmacia. The gobernador needs some medicine now.“

Sergeant Padua looked askance at Pedro. "His Excellency requires some medication now? Why was I not told of those earlier?”

Pedro Gomez, the obedient and respectful servant that he was, lowered his eyes. “His Excellency just told me a few minutes ago, sergeant.”

 “Very well, please come with me.”  Sergeant Padua crisply replied.

“Muy bien, gracias, Sergeant Padua.” Pedro bowed to the guard. Gobernador Sola not get his medicine, he get very mad!“

Jorge double-checked the hallway before he entered the governor's bedroom.  Like the Masked Avenger, he was a silent as a fox. He looked down at Sola, who tossing and turning in his bed. The Indian knelt down beside the official and briefly tapped Sola on the shoulder.

"Señor Sola, I must talk with you.  I have message from your amigo named Don Alejandro de la Vega.  Por favor, Señor, wake up."

Gobernador Sola sat straight up in bed, mystified at what he had just heard.  "Who is there, who is there?”

The Indian did his best to reassure him that he was in no danger.  "Gobernador Sola, my name Jorge Paco, Don Alejandro de la Vega’s mozo. Don Alejandro, he say there big trouble in the Pueblo de Los Angeles because of Commandante Glorioso.” Briefly Jorge outlined the trouble occurring in Los Angeles and waited for the governor's response.

The Spanish Governor was astounded by what he heard.  "I can not believe that such an honorable man as Commandante Glorioso, the Visconde de Estrada, has done such despicable things you told me. Can you prove to me that Don Alejandro sent you from Los Angeles to see me?“

"Two words Señor Gobernador.  Don Alejandro said to me to tell you ‘Remember Madrid.’"

"Madrid, Madrid.” Tomas Sola’s mind traveled back in time to when he first met Don Alejandro de la Vega. Ah, but of course, Madrid, 1778!  Alejandro de la Vega had defended Sola in a dispute involving the honor of a young señorita back when Sola first met de la Vega.

“I remember now, and I believe you, Jorge. Let me get dressed and I will proceed with all haste to Los Angeles.  When does the trial of Señora de la Vega begin?"

Jorge replied, "Señor Governor, the trial, it start on Friday afternoon. Don Alejandro say we must hurry!"

Gobernador Sola checked his pocket watch and saw that the time was nearly nine o’clock p.m.  "If we leave no later than ten thirty tonight, I believe I can make it to Los Angeles well before eleven a.m. on Friday. “Adonde es Pedro?“ he shouted, causing both Pedro and Sergeant Padua to burst through Sola’s unlocked door.

“Pedro! I have urgent business in Los Angeles. Come; help me get ready for this journey. By Santiago! I must make certain that Señora de la Vega comes to no harm!”  The Gobernador paused to think of his next move. “Pedro?“

‘Sí, Your Excellency?” his mozo politely asked.

Sola tried to rub the sleep from his eyes and yawned. “Bring me parchment ...  a quill ... ink,” the Gobernador briskly ordered. “I shall temporarily appoint the Visconde de Granada as Acting Gobernador during my absence from Monterey!”

 

END OF CHAPTER  FORTY

 

 

 

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