Pacific Odyssey

Book III: The Journey Home

 

 

 

 

Chapter Seventeen

 

Carlos and Bernardo Arrive

 

   

With patient and careful precision, Patterson moved his head slowly and deliberately, watching for any activity.  He saw a guard slowly trudging nearby.  Occasionally, the man stopped, yawned and rubbed his eyes.  Another guard approached.  Patterson snapped his eyes shut and lay perfectly still when the second man looked into his cell. 

“Pedro,” the second guard said softly.  “Has he awakened yet?” 

“No,” came the answer around a yawn. 

“You go on to bed.  It is past the end of your watch.” 

“But I have not been relieved,” Pedro said.  “Juan Marcos has not come yet.” 

“Do not worry.  We will get a few pesos from Juan Marcos so we will not tell anyone that he slept through his watch.   And it is so quiet, you will not be missed.” 

“Are you sure?”

Sí, Pedro.  I am sure.” 

Gracias,” Pedro said, yawning again.  He headed for the barracks.  Patterson waited. 

Softly at first and then with increased intensity, Patterson began moaning, just loud enough for the guard to hear.  Through slitted eyes, the Englishman saw the soldier approaching.  

Señor,” the guard whispered.  “Are you all right?” 

Patterson moaned again, this time with more intensity. 

“Señor?  Señor? Are you all right?”  The guard peered through the bars of the carcel.  Patterson continued to moan, adding a few mumbled words of pain. 

Finally, as the Englishman’s moans became more intense, the soldier got a set of keys from nearby and opened the cell door.  Slowly the guard approached him.  Patterson kept moaning, even while he listened for the approach of the soldier.  The man bent over him.  The assassin could feel his presence.  The lancer leaned even closer, and his hand lightly touched Patterson’s shoulder.  Señor?” 

That was when the Englishman exploded into action.  He jerked his free hand out, grabbing the guard by the jacket, drawing him closer.  Then his other hand struck, first grabbing the soldier’s knife and then pushing the deadly blade its full length between the guard’s ribs.  With only one quick, sharp cry of surprise and pain, the soldier died, falling on the dirt floor of Patterson’s cell.  Leaning over, Patterson pulled the knife free, feeling the warmth of the lancer’s lifeblood on his hand and sleeve.  The assassin wiped the blade on the dead man’s jacket and then stepped over him, gazing out across the parade ground and seeing no one.  Quickly, Patterson dragged the guard onto the cot and covered him with the one threadbare blanket, then he took the keys and left them in the corner of the cell, out of sight.  With another perusal of the area in front of him, Patterson stepped out of the carcel and pulled the door gently behind him, hearing the click as it locked.  He kept to the shadows of the buildings and stable until he reached the gate.  There he saw, through the half open entryway, another guard, one quietly walking to and fro in an almost hypnotic rhythm in front of the entrance.

Patterson waited in the shadows.  He watched and then when the opportunity was right, he struck, killing this one without a sound.  He dragged the dead guard inside the gatehouse, leaving him lying there.  Stepping outside the gate, Patterson saw in the east, the rosy pinkness of the impending dawn.  He must hurry.  Again keeping to the shadows, the Englishman made his way to the stables, but there was a man and a boy guarding the animals.  With a softly muttered curse, Patterson slipped from shadow to shadow as he made his way out of town.  Finally near the outskirts of the pueblo and before the sun rose, he found an unattended horse, standing sleepily next to a small adobe.  He looked at the horse in distaste, wishing he could find an unattended carriage, but he could ill afford the time to be choosy about his preferences.  A horse was faster and it was available.  And he would do whatever it took to find and kill the unknown man who had temporarily bested him.   He also found a worn saddle and bridle.  Soon he had the old gelding ready and he mounted, turning its head north toward Los Angeles.  Ignored was the pain of his battered face, ignored was his discomfort in the saddle, remembered and fanned into red-hot fury was the vengeful intent of his heart.

 

 

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Just before the noon hour, Bernardo drove the carriage through Los Angeles, but did not stop, nor did he acknowledge anyone except with nods.  He wanted to waste as little time as possible getting to the hacienda.   Outside of the pueblo, Bernardo coaxed the tired horse into a faster trot, arriving at the hacienda quickly.  He motioned for a young servant to watch the horse and carriage and then beckoned to George to follow him.  When they walked through the patio and into the sala, they were met by Don Alejandro himself.   Alejandro looked up, and gazed at the servant in surprise.  He began to open his mouth, but seeing the boy at his side, started signing as well.  “You are home more quickly than I expected.  Have you received news?” he asked.  Then he pointed to George.  “Who is this?”

‘This is Don Diego’s servant from the ship.  Don Diego is back.  He has returned,’ Bernardo grinned and signed quickly.   

The old man stared in shock, his fingers still upraised for signing, but motionless, as though they had been turned to stone.   His jaw fell slack and then he whispered, almost inaudibly at first, “Diego is back?”  His eyes continued to stare as Bernardo nodded and pulled out the letter from his master to Don Alejandro.  “Diego is back?” Alejandro repeated, this time making the sign for Diego.   

Again Bernardo nodded and handed Don Alejandro the letter.  

“Where?” Alejandro asked, forgetting to sign and standing with the letter still sealed in his hand. 

Bernardo pointed to the letter. 

Finally recovering from his initial shock, the don tore open the letter.   Alejandro gave a cry of delight when he recognized the handwriting.  “Oh, Diego, my son, my son.  Finally, the day has come!” Alejandro exclaimed in a voice that was almost a moan, but also a cry of jubilation.  Gazing up at Bernardo, he signed, ‘When will he arrive?  How does he look?  Is he well?’  Then he grinned broadly, his eyes shining, “We must prepare a homecoming feast,” he said, turning to call servants.   Bernardo caught his sleeve and shook his head, ‘Don Diego is well.  He arrived several days ago.   He has a beard, much like you had.’  Then he pointed to the letter.  

Alejandro looked slightly puzzled, but he continued to read the letter, this time not stopping.  George continued watching the pair, saying nothing.   As the older man read the contents of Diego’s note, he started to frown.  “By the Saints!” he cried, and then moaned softly in despair.  “I hope Diego has not returned home to be killed.”  The old man looked at Bernardo, who appeared as though he agreed with the hacendado.   “So this is the big plan those spawn from Purgatory had in mind.  Madre de Dios!  This must stop, once and for all!”   Motioning for Bernardo to go and get Rafael, one of the servants, he turned to study George.  “Life is never calm when you meet up with a de la Vega, young man,” he said grimly.  “What is your name, and how did you manage to get mixed up in the life of my most unlucky son.”          

“I am George Bowman, Don Alejandro, and Don Diego bought my indenture from Capitán Valdez on the voyage from Manila.  He is going to send me back home to my family when he is able to, just like he said a friend did for him in China,” he said quickly in one breath.  This patrón seemed much more austere than his son.  “Don Diego has been very good to me.  He even taught me how to speak Spanish, even though I am hard headed about learning new things.”

Don Alejandro smiled at the young man.  He could well imagine how Diego managed to end up with a servant like George.  “You are from England?” he asked simply. 

The boy nodded and then proceeded to tell him the story about his namesake.  When the servant came in, Alejandro stopped him with a hand motion.  “George, I want to hear the rest of your story, but it will have to be after we have made the preparations that my son has required of us.”  George nodded.  Alejandro made more hand signs to Bernardo and the manservant motioned for the boy to follow him.  As they were leaving the sala, George heard the older man giving instructions.  “Rafael, do we still have the explosives that were purchased to enlarge the pond on the north end of the property?” he asked.  

, Don Alejandro,” Rafael answered simply. 

Then he was walking back through the patio and up some stairs to a room, which George immediately assumed was Don Diego’s.  Bernardo signed.   Sí, Bernardo, I will wait here.”  The manservant left and George took off his threadbare cloak and sat in a chair by the fireplace.

           

Back in the sala, Alejandro was pacing intensely.  “Good, I want the explosives gathered and placed in the far corner of the stable, where it will be easy to blow up.  Make sure that they are in the northwest corner of the building, as to cause the least possible damage to the hacienda.  Then have the other servants secure as many things here in the house as they can.  Take all of the horses except for one or two and have José tether them with the ranch hand’s animals out on the rangeland,” he explained at the plainly shocked servant.  “Ask no questions right now, I will explain everything when all is in readiness, and everything must be ready by dark.   When you are done with the preparations, gather all of the house servants here in the sala for further instructions.  Go now, and hurry.”  The man left, shocked at the directives that he had been given.          

Alejandro called for Maria, the cook.  “There is a young man resting upstairs.  His name is George and he is probably hungry.  Fix something for him that he can eat quickly.  We will all be involved in this, including the boy.”  When she had left, Alejandro asked Bernardo all of the other questions that he had been saving up when he first saw the letter.  He was insatiable in his desire to know everything recent about the son who had been gone for such a long time.           

Within the next hour, the house was ready for the event of the evening, and Alejandro had sent most of the house servants into the pueblo, presumably for supplies, but mainly for them to be safe from the explosion and any possible reprisals.   Everyone else saddled horses and headed toward the range, just as was customary during the seasonal roundups.  By evening everyone was ready for the ‘nighttime performance,’ as Alejandro had begun calling it.  He had even briefly visited with Sergeant Garcia and they had compared notes.

 

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When Carlos rode into the Pueblo de Los Angeles, early in the afternoon of the third day, he immediately drove the carriage to the livery stable, leaving it and the horse in the care of the stable master.  Tossing a couple of pesos to the man, he admonished, “Señor, feed and water the horse, but do not let anyone near the carriage.  I have to deliver the chests this evening and was expressly told to deliver them to a certain person and at a certain time.  It would not go well for either one of us if someone had tried to get into the chests while I was at the tavern.”  

For good measure, he tossed another couple of pesos to the man who smiled and nodded.  “I will guard them well, señor.”

Carlos walked into the tavern, took a quick meal and then ambled over to the cuartel.  A rather sleepy-eyed lancer blocked his way inside.  “What is your business, señor?” the soldier asked. 

“I have an important message for Sergeant Garcia.  It is urgent!” Carlos answered.

“You do not look like someone with an urgent message,” the soldier said.

Carlos ogled for a moment in disbelief.  “It doesn’t matter if I look like I have an urgent message or not, I have one and I have to get it to the acting comandante.”

“But the sergeant is busy,” Reyes said, remembering Sergeant Garcia telling him that he was not to be disturbed.  The corporal suspected that his commanding officer was probably napping or enjoying a mid-afternoon snack, especially since it had been several weeks since the last raid by the terrorists.   Many believed that the bandits had been beaten badly enough to encourage them to leave.  He wasn’t so sure, but he was just a soldier and not in charge of anything except this gate at the moment.

“This is urgent.  Is the sergeant in?” Carlos asked, exasperated.

Sí, he is.” 

“Good, then please allow me to pass so I can give him my message,” Carlos said emphatically, feeling inside his pocket for Diego’s letter. 

The soldier gazed at him for another moment and then motioned for him to enter the cuartel, pointing out the comandante’s office.   Carlos walked up the three steps to the office and knocked.  A deep bass voice called out, “Enter!” and he opened the door.   Carlos noticed a man of prodigious weight sitting behind the comandante’s desk, seemingly just having come out of a doze.  The man looked somewhat unkempt, with a stubbly beard and uncombed hair.   He gazed up at him, blinked and sat up in his chair.

“What can I do for you, señor?” Garcia asked.

“I am Carlos de Clavo from the Philippines, on my way to Mexico City, and I have a message from Diego de la Vega, one of utmost importance,” Carlos told the man.  “Are you Sergeant Garcia, the acting comandante?”           

, but how can you have a message from my friend, Don Diego?    He was kidnapped and no one knows when he will be able to return,” Sergeant Garcia asked in a puzzled voice, which trailed off as he thought about Carlos’ statement.  Then his face brightened visibly.  “Unless he has returned already.... that is wonderful news!”           

“Diego is probably traveling to Los Angeles right now, but not for a happy reunion,” Carlos explained.  “He is deeply involved in trying to destroy the terrorist enclave right now.  I have a letter in my pocket that will explain everything, and I was told to admonish you to follow the instructions explicitly.  I also have a chest that will be brought into the cuartel later where it will be kept safe for Don Diego.”  As he paused for breath, Carlos noticed the sergeant’s face change from shock to incredulity and then to humorous disbelief.           

“Don Diego?  Oh no, Señor de Clavo, not the Don Diego I know,” Garcia chuckled.  The idea that Don Diego could be involved in a plot against the revolutionaries seemed ludicrous to him.            

Carlos sighed.  Diego was right; this was going to be a hard job, convincing this man of the seriousness of what was going to happen.

 

 

Chapter Eighteen
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