The Promise



Gail Manfre







... and her little companion, retribution



Give myself up to a common thief? NEVER!” was the Visconde’s caustic response. Lancers, arrest El Zorro!” he yelled while shaking his fists in the air.

A quartet of soldiers moved toward Zorro with their razor sharp lances and the Fox quickly sprang into action. He flung Glorioso’s bullwhip across the eyes of one soldier and shot another one in the left shoulder with his pistola. The Fox spun around again, just as the third lancer announced his presence behind Zorro by yelling, “I have you now, Señor Fox!“ Then the soldier foolishly moved himself between the Dark Knight and his beloved Selena.

“Lesson number one, lancer ...” Zorro said while adroitly relieving his opponent of his weapon by flicking Glorioso’s bullwhip around the lancer’s rifle, “is never shout at your prey if you are trying to catch him unawares!”

The sub-altern stood open-mouthed as his lance flew from his grasp and into the Fox’s waiting empty left hand. “Lesson number two is, never challenge me one-on-one if you do not know what you are doing,” El Zorro said mockingly. “HEYAAAH!” The Fox used the lance’s blunt end to butt the soldier in the stomach.  As that man doubled over, the outlaw shoved him into yet another man loyal to the Commandante.

Meanwhile, Garcia and Reyes fended off the few remaining lancers controlled by the Visconde. Lancer Hugo and his amigos easily disarmed the attackers, for the commandante’s men lost their enthusiasm for battle when they saw El Zorro overpower four of Glorioso’s men so easily.

Frustrated by the Fox’s superior agility, the Visconde yanked Private Jimenez, who was immobilized by his fear of the military’s legendary opponent, and shoved poor Jimenez toward Zorro. “Kill him,” Visconde de Estrada ordered,  “and I will add two hundred pesos to the posted reward!”

But Joaquin Jimenez’s madre had not raised a fool. Jimenez turned tail and ran fort he cuartel gate.

“Gracias for your help, amigos!” Zorro yelled out while striking down the last soldier left standing who was determined to kill the Fox.

Garcia acknowledged Zorro’s gratitude with a broad grin. “I should have acted sooner. I feel responsible for Señora de la Vega’s injuries.”

“No, my friend, you most certainly are not.  The guilty party in this farce is now groveling at my feet.” Zorro tweaked the Commandante by flicking his wrist just a fraction, causing the whip to merely graze Glorioso’s head.

“Y-you ... crass ...hueco!”  the Visconde snarled.

“For you, Señor Cobarde [coward], your punishment is just beginning,“ Zorro grimly stated. “So, collarse!”

“Keep your eyes open, Corporal Reyes,” Garcia ordered, while looking around the Cuartel’s yard. “Zorro wounded that miserable raton Corporal Peldar.  But where is he?” the sergeant wondered aloud.

“I do not see him anywhere in the yard,” Reyes replied, as his eyes quickly scanned the area.

The sergeant frowned.  “Reyes, you, Hugo and Diaz release Señora de la Vega and stay with her. “As for me, I am going to ...”

Corporal Reyes was already untying one of Selena’s wrists when he saw movement in his peripheral vision. Santa Maria! It was the injured Peldar who was aiming an escopeta at Zorro’s back.

“SERGEANT!” Reyes screamed, “To your left, it is Corporal Peldar! He has a rifle!”  Reyes’ friends carefully laid down Señora de la Vega on the ground as the corporal grabbed a discarded lance from the ground and charged toward Peldar.

Garcia shifted his considerable bulk as he turned toward the steps leading to the lancer’s barracks. His mouth opened in horror.  Oh no, you don’t, raton! Garcia said to himself while trying to decide what to do. The sergeant estimated that there was about six feet between him and the Fox.

“ZORRO! LOOK OUT!” Garcia yelled.

Capitán Glorioso had noticed Peldar crawling by the soldiers’ quarters’ steps and saw the corporal lift an escopeta at his masked nemesis. The Visconde wiped the blood trickling from cuts on his forehead made by Zorro using Glorioso’s own favorite whip with his panuelo.  He struggled to his feet and grinned at the Fox.  “Now I have you, accursed enemy.  Peldar, shoot!”

Zorro froze momentarily. His eyes had followed the Visconde’s gaze behind him. Dios, mi! Peldar! The Fox had been so preoccupied with neutralizing Glorioso that he forgot about Corporal Peldar time to think, man, and move! In the split second of his hesitation, Zorro saw the flash of the escopeta’s muzzle and he groaned inwardly. Too late ... too late...

“CRACK!“ The sound of an escopeta firing echoed in the cuartel, and Sergeant Garcia did the only thing he could do - he hurled himself with all his strength at the Fox.

“OOOOOOOFFFF!” Zorro exclaimed as the force of impact with the huge sergeant slammed the Fox face first into the dirt. When the man in black recovered his senses, he Fox looked down at a powerful pair of hands gripping his legs, a pair of hands belonging to Sergeant Garcia. 

“W-whew ...” the Fox gasped as air slowly returned to his lungs, “y-you s-saved m-my life, sergeant. For that, I am m=most thankful ...I-I think!”  Zorro gingerly rubbed the right side of his neck.  Madre de Dios! I shall certainly have a massive headache later ...  Zorro thought as he tried to move his now sore neck.

“GOT HIM!”  Reyes exclaimed as he stood over Corporal Peldar, whose body now sported a lance thrust into his back.

Zorro managed to stand and found himself staring at the second of the most improbable sights he had ever witnessed.  Who could have guessed Corporal Reyes was a man of action. First, Garcia prevents me from being shot and now Reyes killed Peldar, the soldier who intended to kill me. Amazing, he muttered to himself, simply amazing!

Glorioso saw his chance and took it.  He stumbled toward the Cuartel’s gates. But he never got any farther than a couple of feet when he suddenly felt himself jerked backward.

“DIOS!” he yelped. Zorro had wrapped the whip expertly around one of the Visconde’s ankles.

“Leaving us so soon, Capitán? I think not!”  he heard the Fox laugh above his head. as Glorioso tripped and fell. “Now, get up!” Zorro commanded while he unwound the whip. “Pronto!”

Diaz and Lugo were carrying the Señora into the commandante’s office when they were distracted by the sight and sound of men climbing over the back wall of the Cuartel.  The men scampered down the roofs of the stables and the barracks and then surged forward to help Garcia round up the remaining
prisoners and to make certain the situation was under their control until Zorro gave the order to open the gates.

“Not to worry, señores.”  Zorro announced while keeping Glorioso at bay with the capitán’s whip, “those are Don Alejandro’s men. And none too soon, he hastily added to himself.  

Sergeant Garcia ordered Sanchez, Miro, and several other Glorioso loyalists into the jail cells.  He also told Corporal Reyes to open the Cuartel gates and send for Dr. Avila pronto.

Zorro nodded at the sergeant. “Sí, I believe that is time for the good people of Los Angeles to deal with their tormentor.”

Garcia himself and Reyes threw open the gates and then returned to see what El Zorro would do with the visibly shaking commandante.

“Settle down, Commandante Glorioso, or I perhaps I should call you by your proper title, the former Visconde de Estrada?” the Fox taunted the profusely sweating officer. Perhaps since you are so uncomfortable in your dress uniform I could relieve you of oh, say your fancy rank ensigns?” the Masked Avenger commented wryly.

The now much hated whip struck Glorioso on both shoulders and then Zorro again wound it around his legs, sending the Visconde tumbling back into the dirt.

“Do not touch me again with that whip!” Glorioso shouted, “Garcia, arrest the outlaw known as El Zorro, and I swear, upon my honor as a Spanish Grandee, that I will share the five thousand pesos award with you!”

The portly sergeant shook his head. “I am very sorry....” Garcia stopped and glanced around the pinched expressions of his brother lancers and felt all of the pent up anger that lurked beneath the crowd’s silence., “but I can no longer obey an officer of the King who enjoys flogging people ... hurts innocent women!  You should be ashamed of yourself!” The sergeant finished what was for him, the longest and most important things he had ever said.

“No, I make no apologies for my actions today!” he proudly stated. “Corporal Reyes! Hugo! Lock up this criminal, pronto!”

Zorro laughed until his sides hurt. “Well said, Sergeant Garcia!”  But as he helped Glorioso to his feet, he grabbed the Visconde’s uniform collar and found he could no longer stifle his rage over the Visconde’s assault of his wife. He soundly cuffed the capitán twice with the butt of the whip.

“Did I not warn you earlier, Glorioso, never to touch me or Senora de la Vega  again?” Zorro hissed into his ears. “You are most fortunate that I am the not the Eternal Judge or else you would be condemned forevermore in the next life! “This blow is for me ... and this one is for Selena.” The Fox clasped his hands together and landed a bone crunching backhanded blow to Glorioso’s right jaw.

The Visconde rocketed to the ground and vainly tried to shake the vertigo from clouding his wits. Zorro watched with undisguised joy, his hands planted on his hips, at the sight of the aristocratic Grandee crawling through the dirt. Finally, the Fox began to haul Glorioso to his feet. But the Visconde de Estrada tried playing what he thought was his trump card. There might be one chance left for me. Slowly and very painfully, the commandante straightened himself as much as he could in the iron grasp of the Fox’s powerful hands.

“L-listen to me everyone! Don Diego is really El Zorro!” de Estrada yelled. “Make Zorro remove his mask, Sergeant Garcia, I order you!”

“Don Diego’ is the Fox’?”  Garcia said incredulously.  “You are muy loco, Excellency. It seems that every commandante posted to Los Angeles thought my friend was Zorro! Besides, Señor Glorioso,” Garcia said menacingly, you have caused enough trouble and pain for Don Diego and the dear Señora de la Vega, so shut up!”

“I know that Don Diego is really Zorro and I can prove it. Make him remove his mask, I tell you. De la Vega is the Fox!” the Visconde insisted petulantly.

Zorro pushed the commandante away from him. Then the Dark Angel tossed back the whip and lightly popped off the remnant of Glorioso’s left sleeve.

Porco!”  the capitán shouted at Zorro.

“No, no, no, commandante. Have you already forgotten my name? Permit me to refresh your memory.”  Once more the outlaw twirled the lash so fast in the air that the whip was nearly invisible to the growing crowd of Angelinos who stood at the gate watching and enjoying Glorioso’s public humiliation.

“CRACK, CRACK, CRACK!”  Zorro deftly engraved his “Z” into the Capitán’s dress military jacket.  “Do you remember now, Commandante? My name is Zorro, not porco!“ Another blow here and there, and buttons flew from his uniform. The Commandante briefly turned his back to El Zorro and the Fox immediately hit him squarely across his bottom.

Tomás Ballarias laughed so long and hard that his face hurt. “Hit him some more for me, Zorro!”

Glorioso sputtered angrily as Zorro ‘s whip entangled his feet yet again and forced the Grandée to his knees. “I DEMAND that I also be given a whip to defend himself. “After all, Señor Fox, I am a gentleman and you are a thief!”

“Defend yourself, eh?” Beneath the black silk mask Zorro‘s face flushed red. “Very well, I shall offer you the same chance that you permitted Conchetta, Maria and Teresa Soto’s daughter, Carlita. None at all. Now, stand up, pronto!”

“NO!” Glorioso balled his hands into fists.  “I REFUSE! I AM THE VISCOUNT DE ESTRADA! I AM--”

“And I AM EL ZORRO, THE FOX AND I THINK YOU TALK TOO MUCH, SEÑOR!” the man in black angrily retorted.

Zorro snapped the lash a half dozen times across Glorioso’s chest and back, completely shredding his dress jacket. As the capitán tossed aside his ruined clothes, the Fox continued striking him all over his body, hitting Glorioso whenever and wherever he wished. 

The crowd roared its approval with each blow that the Fox gave his prisoner.  “More, El Zorro, more! We want to hear him scream for mercy!” Señor Ballarias, the tailor told the Fox.  “Make him suffer the way that Don Diego and I did!”

Teresa Soto anxiously pushed her way inside the Cuartel. “And I say the Commandante should pay for his crimes with his death!  Hang him!“

The tailor approached Zorro, who was becoming very alarmed at the souring mood of the Angelinos. “You must release this raton to us, Señor Fox. He

brutally tormented us so we,” the merchant said as pointed to all of the shopkeepers, peons and Indians who comprised the majority of the crowd, “are the ones who have the right to punish this --this--animal!”

To Glorioso, Ballarias’s statement was patently absurd. “Fools, you will never learn to keep your assigned place in society!  We, the Grandées, were born to rule those entire not of our class because It is the divine order of things. You are merely merchants, weavers, tailors, mestizo peons,” and here Glorioso spat out his last words, “And Indians! Bah!”

Señora Teresa Soto glared at the capitán. “If what you say is true, o high and noble Visconde de Estrada, then how were we lowly citizens able to defeat you, eh?”

Juan Ramon Glorioso, the Visconde de Estrada imperiously straightened himself to recover some of the dignity that he had just lost. “Because you had the power of the obviously misguided dons behind you, puta!”

Señora Soto grasped his shirt and spit in his face. “Canaille!  I will see you hang! Judge Vasca is a fair and honorable man and he despises corrupt officials!”

“And I shall be sure to inform the good Judge about your torture and murder of my great niece, Conchetta Reyes Miro,” an elderly vaquero angrily told Glorioso.  “I am Armando Reyes.  No one in Los Angeles shall permit you to escape the King’s justice!”

Sí! Sí!”  The Pueblo’s citizens wanted to execute Glorioso now, the law be damned. “Why wait for the Judge, amigos? Hang him immediamente!” Several peons shouted.

Visconde de Estrada was astonished by the depth of the Añgelinos hatred.  They are uneducated, simple-minded creatures. They must be ruled with an iron fist. he growled sotto voce as his volcanic anger erupted yet again.

“Señores, you do not understand,” Glorioso ranted. “This is the sacred, divine order of the Lord’s Universe!  We, the highborn, are preordained by God to maintain discipline in society.  It is the natural way of things.  The poor and middle classes live to serve the rich, just as women were created to be taken and conquered by men!”

Zorro and a few of the de la Vega vaqueros had to restrain Armando Reyes.

The Fox handed Reyes to Pepito, his father’s foreman. “Take this raton, Glorioso and throw him into a nice, filthy and flea infested cell before I change my mind and allow Señor Reyes and the townspeople whom he despise so much have their way with him!”

But before Pepito and the de la Vega vaqueros had finished tying the Visconde’s hands behind him, Zorro looked pensively at the whipping post which moments ago, his beloved Selena had been a prisoner.

Uno momento, muchachos,” the Fox grinned and then chuckled. Of course...

“Sí, El Zorro!”

The Fox refocused his attention on Glorioso. “Señor, I have been suddenly divinely inspired by Señorita Justice. Citizens of Los Angeles, listen to me. Gobernador Sola is en route to our Pueblo as I speak. Everyone says that they want to see ‘justice served’ by hanging Commandante Glorioso without

a trial. Amigos, we are not animals. We are civilized citizens of the Spanish Empire. I propose a fitting punishment for our beloved capitán.  I shall bind him to his own whipping post.  What say you, amigos?”

Teresa Soto roared with laughter.  “Sí, Sí! We not kill him Señor Zorro; we will merely decorate his back with his own whip!”






Chapter Forty-four
Chapter One
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