The Promise

by

 

Gail Manfre

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER FORTY-TWO

 

ZORRO VERSUS GLORIOSO

 

 

 

Sergeant Garcia kept pulling at his uniform collar during Glorioso’s verbal exchange with El Zorro. There was no hot sun baking the Pueblo’s dirt streets on this November day, since the morning’s winds had been blowing in from the colder regions in the northwest. No, his unease was caused by Señora’ de la Vega’s bruised face and her gaunt look. And the sergeant had her moan several times after that loco weasel Corporal Peldar had roughly dragged Don Diego’s wife from the Commandante’s office and thrown her against the whipping post.

But Garcia had already decided what he and the majority of the soldiers would do about Capitán Glorioso. Although he and Corporal Reyes had originally wanted to wait until Judge Vasca’s arrival, the shock of seeing the beautiful and kind Señora de la Vega so blatantly mistreated pierced his tender heart. Again, he felt quite ashamed that he had permitted his best friend’s wife to be so abused. By The Three Marias, we lancers will stop this madness today!

Garcia nodded silently in Corporal Reyes’ direction. Reyes did his best to nonchalantly make his way to where the sergeant was standing behind the whipping post. Dios must be with us, Garcia thought as he rolled his eyes heavenward. The corporal as usual dragged his feet as he walked, and his boots kicked up enough dust to choke the entire Cuartel and made sufficient noise to wake the dead. Fortunately, the Commandante only had eyes and ears for El Zorro.

“Reyes, how many of the lancers are with us?” the sergeant whispered to his friend.

Reyes shrugged. “I do not know what you mean--” he halted in mid-sentence at Garcia’s stern look. “Oh, sí, that ‘with us’ plan! Uh, I think Ramirez, Gonzalez, Lugo, Ortega, Fuentes, Ramon, Tenares, Pasquale, Los Cruces, Diaz, plus you and me.”

“And ..... everyone knows what to do?” Garcia asked nervously, fervently hoping Reyes would not ruin their mutiny.

Corporal Reyes whispered, “Sí. We are doing this for the Señora de le Vega. I would kill myself if she dies!”

“No, you would not need to worry about, corporal. In that case I would kill you myself! Now go and see that everyone is in position!”

“Sí, Sergeant Garcia.” Yet Reyes remained where he was.

Garcia reached over and slapped the corporal on his rear end with the flat of his saber. “Baboso! Now!” Dios, mi! Please allow Reyes’ brain to work normally at least until Zorro rescues the Señora de la Vega!

 

ZZZZZZZZZ

 

Capitán Glorioso glanced somewhat impatiently at his vest pocket watch while waiting for Zorro to consider his demands as he paced back and forth just inside the now locked Cuartel gates. The Commandante dearly wished he could tell Don Diego personally about his joyous night of passion with his preciosa, Selena. Oh, well. One cannot have everything in life. There was something else in El Zorro’s reaction at seeing Selena de la Vega’s bruised form bound to the whipping post, something interesting or perhaps Glorioso misinterpreted the Fox’s anguished glances toward the Señora. Yes, intriguing he decided to himself. Those eyes, so full of anger, so ravaged by hate, very similar to the reaction of an outraged husband. Husband! Of course, Dios be praised!

Glorioso grinned mischievously. How could I have been so blind! Those hazel eyes ! I have seen the same look in Don Diego’s eyes.  Diego de la Vega is Zorro! Very clever of the young hidalgo. Although the mask hides most of your features, caballero, the anguish of your heart shone in your eyes. Your love for Selena has betrayed you ! The Visconde de Estrada laughed aloud. How fortune had favored him! After today, Zorro and Diego de la Vega will both be dead. And it is very gracious of Don Diego to bring Gobernador Sola. His Excellency will personally witness the triumph of the superior Grandeé intellect over an hidalgo such as Diego de la Vega. As for El Zorro, “hero of the people, he scornfully thought, the people, bah! And they will longer have Zorro to defend them!!

“Sergeant Garcia, come here at once!” the Visconde shouted. “I have additional orders for you. I will request that El Zorro must enter the Cuartel alone to rescue the Señora. When he reaches this spot,” Glorioso drew an “x” in the dirt in front of him, “you are to close the gates immediately. I shall have the Fox trapped.”

“Sí, Your Excellency, “ Garcia responded as he saluted smartly. But I will not obey those orders, mi capitán, as you will soon see, the sergeant grimly determined. I let Don Diego down but I will not allow anything to happen to my other good friend, the Fox. Must make certain that all of the lancers in our group are ready to move!

 

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

 

El Zorro rubbed his chin thoughtfully, Glorioso has some new twist in his plans to depart Los Angeles with Selena!. Santa Maria, what has his twisted mind devised now? The Fox leaned against his faithful mount, Tornado.. “My friend, I am afraid I may need to resort to the unthinkable to save Selena,” he whispered to the stallion.

He walked over to where his father was discussing the Visconde’s latest demands with Don Alfredo. "“Don Alejandro, we must act immediately. Señores, I believe that there is only one way to respond to Capitán Glorioso's threat to kill Señora de la Vega. Please inform everyone to retreat from the Cuartel fifty yards towards the Church of the Blessed Sacrament, but I wish to speak with Jacinto and his Indian compadres. Por favor, Don Alejandro, Don Alfredo, there is very little time left!” Zorro said anxiously.

When the elder de la Vega began to protest his orders, El Zorro gently grabbed him by the shoulders and said, "Please, Don Alejandro, do not question me now. It is imperative that you follow my instructions to the letter. Here is what I want you to do…” The Fox then whispered his plan into his father’s ear

Alejandro de la Vega smiled encouragingly at him. “Senor, trust yourself and above all else, trust in God.”

“Amen, Don Alejandro, and gracias for all of your help and faith in me. ”Zorro replied sincerely. My father, pray especially hard for Selena who has suffered terribly while in Glorioso’s custody, the Fox thought in his heart.

Zorro positioned Tornado so that his mount prevented the lancers from seeing what he removed from his saddlebag. He quickly stuck a pair of small sized pistolas [ the kind women usually armed themselves with] into his banda behind his back.. He removed his saber and cape and tossed them down. The Masked Avenger watched soberly as his father moved everyone back to the relative safety of the Church. Don Alejandro selected a small group of his vaqueros and told them to follow him. The Fox nodded to himself after he saw the de la Vega men run behind the Cuartel. Zorro prayed silently. Blessed Virgin, I beseech you to grant success to my plan. As always, Holy Mother, please implore your Divine Son to help me at my desperate hour of need.

He signaled Don Alejandro that he was ready to speak with Commandante Glorioso. The Fox placed himself directly before the cuartel gate. "Hear me, Visconde de Estrada, this is my final offer. I surrender myself to you so that you can claim the reward for capturing the infamous outlaw, El Zorro, and have the tantalizing thrill of unmasking me in public. I am alone and I await your reply."

BY SANTIAGO! the Visconde muttered to himself. How is it possible for de la Vega to read my mind? Praise all the Communion of Saints! This situation is developing better than I could have imagined.

De Estrada repositioned his bicorn on his slicked back hair and pulled out his saber. He held his back as straight as humanly possible and bellowed, “Guards, how many people are in the plaza?”

“Only El Zorro, Your Excellency. The others have moved back to the church.” reported Lancer Gomez.

“Then by all means, open the gates, Corporal Peldar, for our important guest, por favor.” de Estrada ordered. 

As Zorro assumed, the Commandante's appearance was almost immediate. The heavy wooden gates of the Cuartel slowly swung open. Capitán Glorioso strode into the Plaza like a peacock. He raised his aristocratic chin and sneered at El Zorro.

"Checkmate, Señor Fox. Not only shall I have the pleasure of stealing the wealthiest caballero in all of California’s wife from him I also shall have the supreme joy of finally discovering your secret identity. Unless of course, being an outlaw, you will renege on your word."

Zorro used every ounce of self-control to present a cool demeanor. He finally said between gritted teeth, "You sir, are the true coward because you hide behind a woman's skirts!"

Glorioso sputtered angrily as he stepped toward the Fox. He resheathed his saber and removed his favorite toy, his bullwhip, from the buckle on his left side. The Commandante raised the whip to strike El Zorro but halted in mid-air.

"Excellente, Señor Fox, you almost goaded me into committing a tactical error. Very clever, very clever. Now, Señor, you will walk into the Cuartel and I will tie you to the whipping post and proceed to carry out a sentence of death upon your person."

"No.” Zorro stood defiantly before him, and repeated his answer ,“No!”

Capitán Glorioso was incredulous. "What did you say, Señor Fox?"

His masked adversary glared at him. "You heard me correctly, Commandante. I will not surrender myself to you unless you release Señora de la Vega. I cannot, as a Spanish gentlemen, permit the Señora to suffer any more indignities at your hands than she already has had to endure. Therefore you will release her from the whipping post and have the doctor treat her wounds immediately!" El Zorro moved toward Comandante until he towered over him. "Well, Viscount de Estrada, I am waiting."

Glorioso carefully scrutinized the Fox who stood brazenly before him with his arms crossed over his chest. “You cannot be serious, bandito. You dare attempt to dictate terms to me?

“Sí!” Zorro snarled viciously at Glorioso. “Consider this, Viscount de Estrada. If you attempt to leave Los Angeles with Senora de la Vega, you will surely die. And I can promise you that the peons’ means of your execution will be far more protracted and painful than even you could imagine!”

The Viscount’s face purpled from rage. “But I shall have had the satisfaction of unmasking you. Besides, Don Diego,” de Estrada said sotto voce, I shall inform the citizens of the pueblo that I have sported with your wife in my--”

Visconde de Estrada never finished his sentence because El Zorro backhanded the Commandante so hard the officer’s head actually bounced when he struck the ground. Momentarily stunned, Glorioso groped around for his bullwhip.

“Looking for this, Commandante?” the Fox said mockingly as he twirled the Commandante’s lethal weapon around and around his head. In one quick movement, Zorro leaped over Glorioso and cracked the whip at the lancers guarding Señora de la Vega. With his left hand Zorro flashed one of the pistolas and shot Corporal Peldar who was aiming his weapon at Selena.

Peldar fell, and the remainder of the lancers surrounding Señora de la Vega scattered, as they abandoned all thoughts of obeying Glorioso’s last order to kill Señora de la Vega in desperate attempts to avoid any contact with their Commandante’s whip.

Garcia and Reyes watched stunned by the sudden turn of events.

“Corporal, now would be a good time to signal our men!” Garcia bellowed.

“W-what signal sergeant?” Reyes sputtered in his usual bewildered fashion.

“BABOSO!!! TO ARMS, ALL LANCERS WHO ARE WITH ME AND CORPORAL REYES! PROTECT THE SEÑORA!”

Hugo, Ramirez, Gonsalves, Mendoza, Orlando, Corporal Reyes and Sergeant Garcia all primed their own weapons and began encircling the whipping post.

“Surrender, Your Excellency.” Zorro said, or forfeit your own life!” The Fox drew his other pistola and aimed the small firearm directly at de Estrada’s head.

 

END OF CHAPTER FORTY-TWO

 

 

 

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