The Promise



Gail Manfre










Señor Hector Gonsalves Ulloa hurried to Glorioso’s jail cell. He had to determine how to rid himself of the now major liability known as the Visconde de Estrada before His Excellency, the Gobernador, or anyone else in this seedy backwater town discovered their secret business partnership. The Marquis de Granada drew himself up [all five feet four inches of him] and puffed out his chest, hoping to intimidate the two lancers guarding their former commandante.

“Lancer, I wish to speak with Capitán Glorioso immediately!” the Marquis de Granada announced arrogantly.

“I am sorry, Your Excellency, but Gobernador Sola has given us strict orders not to allow anyone save himself or Judge Vasca talk to this prisoner.” Corporal Reyes explained.

“What! Corporal,“ the Marquis de Granada retorted incredulously, “do you know who I am?”

Reyes squinted at him. “I am the Lance Corporal in Charge of the Night Guard, Your Excellency, and I have never seen you before in my life. Now, please go away, orders are orders.” Corporal Reyes was determined to follow Gobernador Sola’s orders to the letter.

The Marquis de Granada contemplated offering Reyes a bribe, but dismissed the notion. Why should he risk losing everything that he had gained to save Glorioso? In my opinion, the Marquis de Estrada is an animal, even though his Grandee blood is pure and undiluted for almost a thousand years. Ah, well, I must consider my family’s good name and honor. Señor Ulloa had made a decision, and his future would certainly not include Juan Ramon Glorioso

Señor Ulloa held his perfume scented pañuelo before his nose to block the stench of the Cuartel from injuring his delicate nostrils. “Such impudence!” He bellowed to anyone who would listen, and then he arrogantly stalked away from Glorioso’s cell.

The Marquis de Estrada angrily called out to him. “Señor Ulloa! Come back! Hector, we need to talk!

Instead the Marquis de Granada hurried toward the Commandante’s office, mounted his chestnut horse and sped away as fast as he could from Los Angeles.

Capitán Juan Glorioso was livid with rage at Señor Ulloa’s betrayal. Oh no, my dear Hector, you will pay for this desertion in coinage most dear. “Corporal Reyes! I want to see His Excellency Roberto Sola, NOW!” Glorioso rattled the cell’s iron door.

Quiet down! And just why do you wish to see His Excellency the Gobernador, mi former commandante?” Reyes nonchalantly asked while he rested his chin on his rifle.

“Tonto! Idioso! Hurry! The real prize in this insane drama has just left the Cuartel, and I shall inform Gobernador Sola that it was your entire fault, Corporal! Glorioso desperately wanted to strangle the insipid Reyes, but now the commandant was behind bars and found that the corporal was wisely standing guard just beyond his reach.

“Oh, sí, of course, Commandante Glorioso! I-I mean ... Sergeant Garcia, would you come over here please?“

“Yes, yes, Reyes, what is it?” Garcia lazily inquired.

Glorioso began jumping up and down in exasperation. “Garcia! The greatest thief in all California has escaped from your custody!”

“W-what? Who?” the sergeant said blinking his in disbelief.

“THE MARQUIS DE GRANADA, BABOSO! HE WAS MY BUSINESS PARTNER!” Glorioso yelled with all his strength as he fruitlessly shook the bars of his jail cell. “NOW TAKE ME TO SEE THE GOBERNADOR!”

“Reyes! Open this cell. I think that the Gobernador would like to speak with the commandante!” Garcia ordered as he watched Reyes fumble with the cell’s keys.

Glorioso sighed wearily. I will most certainly be thrilled to leave this pueblo, and immediately would not be soon enough, if only to never these pair of babosos again!





Commandante Glorioso was exhausted after an entire night of revealing his and Señor Ulloa’s bribery, theft of imperial taxes, auctioning political offices to the highest bidders, and finally, Glorioso’s own bland, cold admission of murdering three serving girls of La Casa de Hospitalidad.

Juan Ramon Glorioso demonstrated absolutely no regret concerning the deaths of Conchetta de Reyes, Carlita Soto and Maria Reyes. What were the lives of a trio of mestizo peons when measured against his noble family name and blood? He permitted himself a bit of a smile. Of course, Gobernador will understand!

“Senor .... to be perfectly frank...I loathe the sight of you... I expected a much higher standard of behavior from someone of your ... class!” Gobernador testily responded when Glorioso had finished recounting his criminal misuse of power. You shall suffer the full measure of the royal law. You, Señor, have committed treason against General Santa Anna and the Mexican Government!”


Gobernador Sola grimaced in disgust, “Your blood, such as it is, is the same color as mine.” His Excellency Roberto Sola then bitterly added, “As a human being, you are a complete abomination, my dear Visconde. I would suggest that you quickly place all of your affairs in order. One can only be thankful to God you are a bachelor. The world will not have to suffer the existence of any of your children! Return this piece of ... Oh, forgive me, my dear Visconde, this NOBLE piece to his cell to await sentencing and execution!” Sola mockingly added

As the Visconde struggled uselessly against his chains, he shouted, “EL ZORRO! If it were not for that odious outlaw I would be rich, successful, and have Selena de le Vega as my most treasured possession!”

Gobernador Sola stiffened. “I suppose that you will also blame the Marquis de Granada for all of your crimes, you pathetic excuse for a man! But do not fear, Visconde de Estrada. You will not hang alone! Remove the prisoner! Sola ordered Capitan Tamer on. And, if the prisoner continues to make trouble, flog him.”

“Y-you would not dare whip me,” Glorioso sneered at the Spanish officer.

Tameron roughly pulled the chained Glorioso down the steps towards his jail cell. “The Gobernador might not do so, but I dare you, Señor, to speak another word. For each word that escapes from those foul lips, you will receive five lashes, comprende?“

The Visconde bit his lip and nodded in agreement.

An hour later, a group of lancers under Capitán Muro’s command headed to the port of San Pedro to arrest Glorioso’s partner, Señor Ulloa.




Hector Gonsalves Ulloa, the Marquis de Granada, could not believe the amount of gold and silver he and Juan Glorioso had managed to extort from the Angelinos. There must be over 8,000 pesos in gold and 5,000 silver reales. Dios! Combined with his estate income and this unexpected windfall ... why he could disappear in the Far East and exist in unimaginable luxury. He estimated his income from Mexico and California for the past three years to be almost 20,000 pesos!

A sudden creaking sound in the dark warehouse halted his mental calculations and Señor Ulloa extinguished his torch.

“Capitán Muro. I know I saw a light in here, sir. And I heard laughter,” Corporal Hernández said.

“As did I, Corporal Hernandez.  We know you are in here, Your Excellency, Señor Ulloa! We have the building surrounded.” Muro announced. “You are under arrest by order of Gobernador Sola.”

Curse that diablo Glorioso, the talkative coward! Ulloa thought acidly as he aimed his pistola and fired it into the darkness. “You will not take me alive!”

“Your choice, Excellency! Lancers move in!” Muro ordered.

Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. I am not going to prison, therefore... Ulloa muttered aloud.

Capitán Muro and his lancers heard the sound of a pistola being fired and the unmistakable thud of a body hitting the ground. “Hurry men! Find the Marquis!”

Corporal Hernandez and Lancer Enstancio almost tripped over Ulloa’s prostrate form. “Over here! The Marquis shot himself!”

Muro held the torch next to the now deceased Marquis de Granada. “So I see, corporal. Report this news immediately to Gobernador Sola. “When he held the torch to the bags near Ulloa’s feet, he gasped in astonishment at the large piles of coins that spilled from one of the opened moneybags. “Such ill gotten goods. I wonder if Señores Ulloa and Glorioso think this was all worth their deaths?” the capitán tersely noted.




De la Vega Hacienda

December 4, 1821

Don Alejandro returned to his hacienda just before sundown. He was prepared to tell Diego the particulars regarding the trial of the Visconde de Estrada before Judge Vasca but stopped when he saw how exhausted his son was. Diego was sitting in the cool night air of the patio, smoking a particularly fragrant puro cubano. Alejandro noticed that his son was absentmindedly spinning some Jerez around in a crystal glass .

“How is Selena doing?” Diego’s father asked quietly.

“Physically, fine. Otherwise, I am not sure.” Suddenly Diego rose and rubbed out his cigar. “I am sorry, father, I do not feel like talking tonight.”

“My son, it is perfectly natural for you to feel ... helpless.” Don Alejandro began. “You must understand what happened to Selena was the worst sort of violation a woman could endure. You proceed slowly, gently. “

The younger de la Vega rubbed the back of his neck in frustration. “I have tried, father, I truly have! Surely Selena can not be afraid that I no longer love ... her ...” Diego suddenly slapped himself on the forehead. “Dios, mi! Of course! She probably feels ...abandoned!” his voice broke and he turned away from Don Alejandro.

“My son, there is no shame in crying,” Alejandro sighed, “if you only knew how many nights I wept after Bethia passed away.”

But Diego merely nodded at his father and left the patio, his young caballero’s mind in a sorry state of confusion and despair. Alejandro watched as his son mounted the stairs to their bedroom. Then the elder de la Vega hurried into the hacienda’s small chapel for another night of prayer.

If I judge Diego's mood correctly, he is riding tonight as El Zorro, if for no other reason to keep himself sane. Oh, my dearest Bethia, talk to our son. I cannot reach either one of our children. Don Alejandro began praying in the chapel. Although he knew his son would ride as Zorro tonight despite the inclement weather, he wished Diego had remained with Selena. Diego’s place was at his wife’s side.

Lightning repeatedly crackled the night air and the resultant thunder sounded like canon fire, disrupting the elder de la Vega’s chain of thought. Alejandro shook his head in exasperation. He rose from kneeling, rubbing his knees as he wearily sat down in one of the little pews. Don Alejandro knew Selena would eventually realize Diego would never blame her for what happened in the Cuartel. He also hoped that Diego would have enough patience to endure this terrible test to their young marriage. If Selena were to shut Diego completely from her life his son would be devastated. And despite everything that Diego had endured in the past month, Don Alejandro was not certain that his son could recover from such a profound emotional blow as losing Selena’s love.




Selena de la Vega dreaded going to sleep, for her nights were filled with demons, each one wearing the macabre leering face of Capitán Glorioso. Although each evening before Diego put her to bed, he lit votive candles to accompany his prayers to the Blessed Virgin, she still suffered from the terrible nightmares. But the worst thing for Diego to endure was Selena’s strange objection to any physical contact with Diego, not even permitting him to hold her hand. Only after Selena drank one of Amontildar’s strong sleeping potions did she rest, and not dream, through the entire night.

Whenever her husband broached the subject of intimacy, the thought of Diego wanting to make love to Selena made her all the more anxious. He now began to fear for her sanity, so strenuous were her arguments. He had to do something to break through the emotional barrier Selena had constructed around her self. Diego crept into their bedroom and just stood on the side of the bed, staring down at the restless Selena, mentally willing her to get better. Before Diego left to ride as Zorro, he sat Selena up in their bed, and held her, tightly but tenderly, until Amontildar’s potion took effect. But before the drug could induce sleep, Selena’s nocturnal self-recriminating mutterings tore at his heart.

‘NO!” she moaned, ... have ... disappointed mon coeur ... oh, Diego, mon cher ... not worthy ... be your wife. Unable to stop Glorioso ... should have fought harder ... NO ... please ... do not touch me!”

Diego continued to rock her in his embrace until Selena’s quiet, rhythmic breathing told him she had fallen asleep. With sorely wounded heart and soul, Diego slipped into the secret room to become his alter ego and escape the sad emotional void that was now their marriage.






Chapter Forty-six
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