Book III: The Journey Home
Revenge and Fear
“I am a busy man, Señor Ramirez.
What is it you want?” the tall man asked in a heavily accented
voice. His eyes were a
piercing blue, his mouth set in impatience.
The dark beard was meticulously trimmed, as was the mustache, and
although the clothes were not extravagant, they were well cut and
bespoke of scrupulous care.
“I have a job for you, one that will pay well, if you take it,” Ramirez said.
“And that is?”
“I want you to kill a few nuisances for me.”
“And that is why we meet out here, on
horseback, outside of town, and not in your office?” the tall man
asked. “Because you have a job for me and not for your
“Señor, you are cleaning up a mess
that occurred because someone was not careful.
This is for my government and for me.
I want no mistakes to occur with this job.”
The man laughed heartily.
“And you wish no one to be able to come back later and point a
finger at you if it goes wrong. Very
well, what is it you want done?” the man asked.
“Señor Patterson, you come very highly
recommended as one who can kill from a distance and as one who leaves no
clues behind, only terror,” Ramirez stated.
“And I hear that you are capable of killing many people at the
“Yes, I accomplish my task.
And I do it well,” Patterson said.
“But it is more difficult to do multiple killings at once,”
Patterson growled, pulling out a cigar.
“That is true, but I want to make a point with these killings,” Ramirez laughed.
“Perhaps the message is that your enemies
should not underestimate you?”
“Yes, that is a good message to learn,”
Ramirez answered, with a smile. “I
have a garrison leader and a ranchero in Los Angeles that need to
be eliminated. If you
destroy the cuartel and the man’s hacienda while you are
killing them, that is all the better.
You can do that?”
“Of course, for five thousand pesos.”
Ramirez glared at the man.
“That is a very large amount, Señor Patterson.”
“Los Angeles is a great distance from here and
the further away my jobs, the more that can go wrong with them,”
“Very well. I will have three thousand pesos ready for you tomorrow and I will give you the rest in Los Angeles when the job is done,” Ramirez agreed.
“Good. Will there be any contact people, other than yourself?” Patterson asked.
have a group of men in San Diego waiting for your instructions. They will meet you and will give you all the background
details. I will meet you in
Los Angeles to see the results.”
“I can guarantee a display the likes of which
you have never seen,” Patterson said, drawing on his newly lit cigar.
“Bueno, I am looking forward to it,”
Ramirez replied. “How
soon do you expect to be able to do this?”
Patterson looked thoughtful. “I would imagine about four weeks.”
Smiling, Ramirez held out his hand.
“Good, I will arrange your first payment today.
Expect to hear from me within twenty-four hours.”
Patterson just looked at Ramirez’ outstretched hand, but didn’t take it. Instead, he nodded and then turned his horse back toward Mexico City.
As the days passed, Diego evidenced more and more nervous energy, an energy that he could barely contain. The wushu was not enough to dispel this excess energy and he found himself climbing up and down in the ratlines until the captain had to have words with him. He began running back and forth on the decks until Capitán Valdez cried out in exasperation.
“De la Vega! I give up! You may take more turns at watch. But only then are you to be in the ratlines. Am I understood?” Valdez asked, his frowning countenance brooking no argument, but his eyes showing sympathy and understanding.
And I thank you,” Diego declared happily. He had always had a need to do something, to act, and at
times his Diego persona that he had adopted was stifling, but now….
Now he was on a hundred foot long ship heading home, wishing he
could make the wind blow harder, and the ship sail faster.
Never had a longing, this desire, been so strong that he felt his
fingers and feet move on their own, involuntarily.
He felt the same crackling energy in his body that he felt in the
air during a thunderstorm, the same kind of energy that seemed to dance
from the lightning and make his hair stand on end and his fingers
tingle. Carlos tried to
engage him in chess, but the closer they came to San Diego, the less he
could concentrate. Diego
sighed in exasperation, trying to will his mind to calm, his body to
Now he stood on the aft side of the ship, his
hands clenched tightly around the rail.
“How many days did the helmsman say, Diego?” Carlos asked, a
knowing smile on his lips. He
leaned across the rail, looking down at the white-capped waves that had
long ceased to hold any fascination for him after many weeks at sea.
“He thinks another two weeks, if the winds
hold,” Diego answered absently. He
drummed his fingers on the rail and then realized what he was doing and
“I am praying for the winds to continue
blowing as they have for the past weeks, my son,” the priest said from
Diego’s left side.
“Gracias, Padre,” Diego said with a sigh. “I did not feel this way when I was in Spain at the university, but now . . . now I cannot get to California fast enough.”
“It is the
circumstances of your leaving, my son,” Father Juan Miguel said.
it was not the most happy of leave-takings,” Diego understated.
“No, it had to have
been hard on you,” the priest agreed.
Diego considered how
hard it had to have been on his father, but he didn’t say anything.
He just continued to watch the ocean sliding past them, his
thoughts at once happy and wistful.
“What are you going
to do first, Diego?” Carlos asked.
“When the ship docks, that is?”
“Find a fast horse
and ride home,” came the answer.
“Somehow, I thought that might be your answer.”
“You are welcome to come home with me, if you can find a horse fast enough,” Diego said, laughing with his friend.
“I think I would
like to do that. I have
plenty of time before I have to be in the university.”
Diego turned and
smiled at his friend. “You
would be most welcome. And
you, too, Padre,” he added, looking at the priest.
“I will eventually
be visiting missions in the vicinity of Los Angeles.
I may stop in to visit you and your father,” Father Juan Miguel
said. The three men
continued to watch the endless waves in silence as the sun sank behind
them. Finally, Diego
excused himself and the two men stood watching his retreat for a moment
before turning back to the rose tinged water.
“That one has suffered much. It is good to see him happy. I hope he finds waiting for him what he has dreamed about for all this time,” the priest said.
That night, in the dark after the setting of the moon, Zorro again slipped up onto the poop deck to practice his fencing. The breeze was soft and caught at his puffy sleeves, making them flutter lightly. The darkness was also soft, almost caressing. Pulling out his sword, he limbered up, stretching in what had become a cross between his wushu warm-up exercises and his fencing warm-up exercises. Even though it had been several days since he had been able to clandestinely work out on the deck, he still felt limber, and his muscles felt strong and taut. Zorro went through some of his fencing drills of his university days and then paused, irritated. He desperately wished to have someone to fence with, to compete with. At first the exercises were fine, but to keep the skills razor sharp, one needed an opponent or a fencing partner. Ever since he had taught Bernardo, his mozo had been his sparring partner. Occasionally his father had fenced with him in the cave, but neither man was available to him right now.
He sighed and sheathed his sword after only a few minutes of practice, leaning against the rail watching the dark waters slip behind them and hearing the incessant splash of waves against the aft and port hull. Then he sighed once more and climbed back down to his cabin. There was no need to be caught up on deck in costume. He chuckled softly to himself. That would be a good exercise in quick thinking, he thought, picturing himself having to explain Zorro to Capitán Valdez. For the hundredth time he wondered just what would be awaiting him when he got home, how his father would be, as well as Bernardo, Tornado and all of his friends of the pueblo. It seemed as though he had been away forever.
against the balcony outside the back of Diego’s bedroom.
He had awakened in the middle of the night, his arm stiff and a
bit sore. Unable to sleep,
he had found himself wandering to Diego’s room.
It was tidy and cared for, evidence of Bernardo’s meticulous
care. Even though the mozo
had been gone for over a week now, the room looked as ready for Diego to
step through the door now as it had almost six months ago.
when is Diego going to return?” he moaned as the moon set below the
far horizon. He scratched
at the stubble on his chin, wishing for his beard.
But he must keep up the pretense.
He had announced his intent to stay beardless until his son was
returned to him and it helped him and Bernardo keep up the reality of
Zorro. No, he
thought, what we do is only a dim shadow of the reality.
The real Zorro lies within Diego’s heart and soul.
And his son was far to the west, across a vast ocean.
He sighed and shook his head before stepping back into the room.
He picked up the guitar that was leaning against the wardrobe and strummed it, picking out the chords of a melody that Diego had been working on before his kidnapping. He was quite capable of playing and had done so when his beloved was still alive. In the evenings, in front of the fire, he had serenaded dear Isabella and his newborn son before they retired to bed.
Alejandro found himself playing and humming to one of Isabella’s favorite melodies. It, like most of her favorites, was about the world around them, the sky, the wind, the birds and animals. The words came back to him and he sang softly. His voice was not as smooth and mellow as Diego’s and he only sang one verse, before he stopped and put the guitar back in its place. “Oh, Isabella, where is our son? When is he coming home? Is he alive?” Then he bowed his head. “It is so lonely. You leave and then Diego is taken so very cruelly from me.” Alejandro let his voice die softly in the silence of the early morning hours. And in that silence he heard a whisper, a very soft and delicate whisper, almost unheard except in his heart. ‘Yes, my love, he is alive. And he is coming home.... Home to you, mi corazon. Soon.’ As the soft whisper faded, he felt tears of joy trickle down his cheeks. Soon, Diego is coming home soon, he said to himself, not doubting for an instant the veracity of the words he had just heard. Looking out at the star-filled sky, he determined that he would send word to Bernardo tomorrow, to keep a closer watch on the incoming ships.