Pacific Odyssey:

Book I

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty-two 

Zorro Makes His Move

   

 

“Mr. Cavanaugh, let me remind you who is the master of this ship.  It is not you, nor is it your father.  I am the master and you will follow my orders,” Beatty said to the young man standing before him.  The casual, arrogant manner quickly changed to surprise and anger. 

“But Captain….” the younger man began. 

“Do not interrupt me!  I know you don’t like de la Vega.  I don’t either.  But your stunt today made him even more popular in the eyes of the crew.  He was already well liked.  I don’t need a sailor, especially one of the intelligence and bearing as that one, becoming powerful enough to possibly cause a problem for me,” Beatty continued.  He glared at the young man.  How he wished he could tell Cavanaugh absolutely everything he thought of him, but he couldn’t.  Not while his father was one of the heads of the East India Company.  “You need to temper your anger, you need to keep your hands and your thoughts well away from Mrs. Meachem, and you need to start acting like the officer that your father expects you to become.  You don’t do that by harshly punishing the men for petty offenses.  They already think you’re a pompous ass and today gave them reason to believe they are right.” 

“Captain…” 

“You will not provoke or try to get revenge on the Spaniard.  If he needs to be punished, I will deal with it.  Do you understand me?” Beatty’s eyes were hard, the anger barely contained.  

Apparently Cavanaugh saw that and he closed his mouth.  Finally he nodded.  

“Good.  Now, if you will excuse me, I am going to dinner.”  As he passed the chagrined mate, Beatty let a satisfied smile cross his features.  A good day, indeed.

 

 

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It took several days, but finally Diego felt healed enough to start thinking about a foray as Zorro.  He began trying to find a time and a place where he could put the finishing touches to his costume, but after almost a week, he began to think he would never find enough privacy on this ship to accomplish his goal. Finally, one night as he lay in his hammock, frustrated over the delay in his plans, he saw the bright light of the full moon creeping into his cabin through the gallery windows.  Excited, he rolled out of the hammock and quietly opened his sea chest.  He took out a strip of cloth and a small pair of scissors that he had purchased on the island.  Looking over his shoulder, he saw that Mr. Bowman was sleeping soundly in his bed.  Ai, one thing for which to be thankful, he thought, Bowman was normally a heavy sleeper.   Having made a crude mask before, it only took a few moments before he had the eyeholes cut.  Another piece was overlaid and sewn onto the first, edges turned over before sewing, the entire process making the mask sturdier and less likely to ravel.  Bernardo had taught him that trick, even though Diego had not, up to this moment, had the need to actually do any sewing.  While it did not match Bernardo’s expertise, it was not too bad, he noted with satisfaction.  Diego slipped the mask into the chest and silently approached the window.  Being the lower cabin covered by the port, or left gallery window, it would be relatively easy to slip out and climb up to the captain’s cabin, which was just above their own.  Except during storms, the window was usually left open, which was also a help to Diego’s plans.  All that was left to find out was whether the captain’s window was open. 

Carefully climbing out onto the narrow ledge, Diego grabbed the edges of the window frame and pulled himself up to Beatty’s window ledge and hung just below it.  Yes! It is open! he thought with deep satisfaction.  Carefully, he pulled himself up enough to look over the lower sill.  It was narrower than the one outside Mr. Bowman’s cabin, but he saw enough to tell him that the captain was sleeping deeply, snoring softly and occasionally mumbling something.  

Perhaps tonight would be a good time to visit, Diego thought as he lowered himself back down to his own cabin.  With a grin, the supercargo’s assistant glanced at his mentor, and seeing him still sound asleep, quickly donned the costume.  There was no hat, but that was of little consequence.  Again, he slipped out of the cabin, stood quietly on the ledge outside of their window and listened.  His heart hammered with the thrill of doing something, anything to take charge of his own fate.  He felt eager anticipation and mentally tried to will the watch away from the aft section of the poop deck. The muted steps of the watch finally faded, and Zorro grasped the edge of the captain’s window and slowly pulled himself up, again checking to make sure that Beatty was still asleep. 

When Zorro saw that the captain was sleeping soundly, he stole in and stood near Beatty’s bed.  He gathered the cape around him and intoned softly,  “John Beatty.”   Zorro noticed that the light of the full moon came through the window at just the right angle.  He was sure that the ethereal effect of the glow of the moon from behind him would give the captain a good case of insomnia.   He repeated the man’s name until the captain groggily awoke.  Beatty’s eyes almost bugged out when he saw him. 

“Who… who are y…you?” the captain stammered hoarsely.            

“An avenger,” Zorro said melodramatically, making his voice sound low and menacing.            

“What...what do you want?” the captain stammered.  He pushed himself as far against the head of his bed as he could.           

“You have taken eleven men from the land of their birth.  Send them home and I will leave you alone,” Zorro intoned.  “Do not, and I will come again and again to haunt your dreams.”  A bank of clouds suddenly covered the moon and the room was plunged into near total darkness.  In that interval, Zorro slipped unheard and unseen out the window and back to his own cabin, where he quickly changed out of the costume.  He smiled grimly as he placed the outfit into the sea chest.  We will see what affect this has on our delusional captain, he thought as he rolled into his hammock.           

Diego originally had no intention of making this a nightly habit, but the days and nights remained clear and the moon bright, so he decided to take advantage of the perfect conditions while they lasted.  The second night he slipped out, climbed into the upper window and waited by the captain’s bed with his sword drawn.  The message was exactly the same.  The captain’s reaction, Zorro noted with satisfaction, was more pronounced.  Beatty was definitely afraid.  This time he was able to slip out when the captain moaned and tightly closed his eyes.  It amazed him that Beatty didn’t think about closing his window, but then to do so in the tropics was to sentence oneself to hot and miserable sleeping.            

The next day, Diego noticed the captain talking to the watchman of the night before.  The man was shaking his head.  The captain raised his voice, telling the watch he had better keep a sharp eye out.  Diego turned back to the supercargo’s cabin and pondered his next move.

The following night when he peered into the captain’s room, Beatty was awake, sword in hand.  Zorro returned to the little cabin that he shared with Bowman and pulled out a rope that he had confiscated from the storeroom.  With stealth borne of practice, the avenger climbed out of his cabin and slipped all the way along the lower edge of the window and then up to the bottom of the poop deck railing, totally avoiding the captain’s window.   There in the moonlight, he saw Victoria Meachem talking with the watch.  Quietly, Zorro tied the end of the rope to the bottom of the rail and slid down, resting his feet on a knot that he had previously tied into the rope.  He waited back from the edge of the captain’s window until Beatty fell asleep and the sword in his hand slid from his lax fingers to lay between the captain’s legs.   Then Zorro slipped into the room.   After moving the saber out of Beatty’s reach, he repeated the message from the previous few nights.  This time the moon shed little light in the room, but Zorro could still see Beatty’s eyes wide with fright. 

The same scenario was repeated three more times, although on the last night, Zorro had to wait outside the window for some time before the captain went to sleep. The avenger was beginning to think that the dawn would come first.   Beatty had also kept his window shut this time.  Ah, the good captain is beginning to be affected by his ‘heavenly’ visitor, Zorro noted with a smile.  Or perhaps I am a hellish visitor.  Very quietly, when Zorro saw that the captain was soundly asleep, he slipped the tip of his sword between the windowpanes and eased it upward.  With a soft click, the hook swung to one side and the black-clad avenger was able to push the window open and slip in.   Immediately, he saw a cocked pistol in the captain’s hand.  Zorro deftly removed it with the end of his sword and warned the captain against using guns on avengers.  He repeated the original warning with only slight variance, and then slipped out when the captain moaned and, again covered his eyes against the apparition he was seeing.  What Zorro didn’t know, was that another was observing him as well.

           

 

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On the morning after the first heavy storm encountered during the voyage from the Sandwich Islands, Diego and all of the other Californianos, except Roberto, were working as topmen.  They were loosing sails that had been furled, or tied up, the night before.  Diego was at his duty station, on the top maingallant yardarm and José was at the opposite end, or yardarm.  After his accident, José had practiced going up and down the ratlines and had become quite proficient at it.  In fact, José had become the most proficient sailor of all of the Californianos, Diego had noted with amusement.  Immanuel and Escobar were in the middle of the yard.  

As he had before, Diego couldn’t help but think that the captain had targeted them to loose sails on the highest and most dangerous of the topsails. Looking around him he noted that his fellow Californianos manned the mizzen topgallant yard and the fore topgallant sail. A fall from here was certain death.  The order from below came. “Let fall!”  He and José loosed the ends of the sail before noticing that Immanuel and his partner were doing the same thing in the middle.  “No, leave it!!” Diego shouted.  Loosing the middle, or bunt of the sail, first, usually caused the wind to catch it before the sail was totally deployed. And that, in turn, often caused the bunt to knock loose any topmen in the way.  For some reason, even though the men had done this job often now, either Immanuel or Escobar had become too eager and had forgotten.  The bunt knocked Immanuel sideways off the yard, and he began scrabbling for a grip on the canvas.  Only his legs wrapped around the yard kept him from totally falling off.  As it was, the Californiano was precariously hanging upside down with only the flapping sails to try to grab onto.  

Diego grabbed a loose rope, wrapped it around his wrist several times, and then dashed across the yard to the beleaguered man.  Just as he reached his countryman, the flapping sail batted Immanuel from his precarious perch.  Jumping off the yard, Diego grabbed Immanuel’s hand.  They fell dizzily through the air until the rope became taut with their weight.  A short, sharp cry of pain escaped Diego’s lips as the rope burned and cut into his left wrist, but he was able to maintain his hold on the sailor until others scrambled up the ratlines to help.  As soon as the other sailors took Immanuel from his grasp, Diego grabbed the rope with his now free hand to take the weight off his abraded wrist.  At the same time he saw that José and Escobar had finished loosing the sail without any further incident. 

The assistant supercargo continued down the rope at a more leisurely rate, until he reached one of the lower levels of the rigging.   Then he finished climbing down the ratlines.  Standing quietly on the deck for a moment, Diego realized just how close to death he and Immanuel had come.  Santa Maria, he exclaimed mentally, crossing himself without thought.  When I get home there will be nothing higher than the cuartel roof.             

Bowman rushed over and looked at Diego’s abraded wrist.  “Come down to the infirmary and let’s get that taken care of, Diego.”  There was a great deal of concern in his eyes, and the caballero noticed that his mentor’s hands were shaking. The captain only stood watching, without saying anything.           

That night, Zorro visited the captain again, very late at night.  There was a sailor posted outside the captain’s door, so he would have to be more careful.  This time, the avenger woke the superstitious man up with the point of the sword at his chest.  “Do not cry out or it will be your last cry.  I am most displeased, John Beatty.  You do not seem to be taking my threats seriously,” he said in a cold, low voice.  “Let the Californianos go home.”           

“I . . . I will,” he stammered.  “But I can’t until we get to Singapore.  I promise.  I know now that they are being protected.  Please . . . please just leave me alone.”           

“Very well,” Zorro said.  “I will be watching to see if you keep your word.  Until then, pleasant dreams.”  He waved the sword point under the man’s nose, at which point the captain fell out of his bed onto his knees, closed his eyes, his voice moaning in prayer.  Zorro went out through the window, satisfied.  He would wait until Singapore and see what developed.  As he rolled into the hammock, his wrist throbbed with pain, but he was content.  Perhaps now he could look forward to going home soon. 

 

 

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At a point in time when the China Star was somewhere east of Singapore, Don Alejandro was having a meeting of the local dons at his hacienda.  With measures that had been taken by the agreement of the landowners and the help of Sgt. Garcia and his lancers, the depredations of the gang of bandits had slowed down considerably, but Alejandro knew they had to stay ever vigilant.  Foremost on the minds of all was the thought of who might be next in line for vengeance from the outlaws. 

Señores, just because these men, these terrorists, have stepped back and been fairly quiet these past two weeks, we must not allow ourselves to become lax.  That is all they are waiting for, a dropping of vigilance, a moment of weakness.  As you know, that happened once before.”  The men in the room nodded.  They were well aware just what had happened the last time the terrorists had ceased their activities.  As though on cue, they all looked at their friend and leader, Alejandro de la Vega. This time there was no thought of whether the banditos had left the area or not.  They knew what the result of such inattentiveness could be.  “We must continue to send out patrols of vaqueros at night, and we must continue to listen and watch.  These men are even more dangerous when they are resting than they are when they are active.”  Alejandro paused to catch his breath. 

He fully believed this was the only way to be rid of the men who had kidnapped Diego.  But he also realistically believed that some of his fellow rancheros only listened to him because of what he had suffered.  With a mental shrug, the old man felt that if that was the case, then so be it.  Whatever he could do to protect this land he called home, he would do it.  

Alejandro had thrown himself into this effort, not only because he believed in it, but also because it prevented him from constantly worrying about his missing son.  He remembered the night, just two weeks earlier, when he had dreamed of Isabella, his dearly departed wife.  He had felt her kiss, looked into her hazel eyes and seen the smile, the one that was so much like Diego’s.  He had not had such a vivid dream of her in a long time.  Her silken brown hair cascaded down each side of her face and he could almost smell the fragrance of it.  The strange thing is, there was the faint wafting of salt and sea spray in her presence.  

Alejandro, my love.’  He had moaned in his desire.  She was close enough to touch, but he could not feel the hands that were so close to his face.  ‘Alejandro, I have come from Diego.  He asked me to let you know that he is all right and that he will be coming home.’ 

“Diego?” he had asked.  He was not sure now if he had asked aloud or not.  

‘Yes, my love.  It is hard for him now.  I fear it will get harder before it gets easier.   Continue to pray for him.  Light candles for him.’ 

“Yes, yes, I will, Isabella.” 

‘My dear, Alejandro, you did such a fine job with him.  He is a man.  I am so proud of him.  My heart almost bursts with pride.’ 

“As does mine,” Alejandro murmured.  Then she had left, only the vestiges of ocean breezes left for him to hang on to.  Bernardo had been right.  A ship had carried him off.  But where?  He had lain awake all night wondering.   When he had told Bernardo of the dream the next morning, the servant had been beside himself with joy.  Several times he had signed, ‘I said he was alive!’  Alejandro had just laughed softly, his own joy more internal.   So many were the times in the past days that he had steadfastly and without hesitation told his friends that Diego was alive, even though he had no proof.  But that visit from his dearly departed wife had given him the proof he had needed and it had renewed his hope. 

A knock at the library door interrupted the conversation and his reverie.  Alejandro motioned to Bernardo to open the door.  Two men entered.  One was a lancer from the cuartel, the other a stranger, and from the look of him, he was a seaman.   What in the world is a seaman doing here?  A chill went up and down his spine.

The soldier made the introductions.  “Don Alejandro, this is First Mate Michael Harmon of the Baltimore Beauty, which is in the harbor at San Diego.  He came by orders of his capitán, James Fox, into the pueblo this morning asking for you by name.  It has been very hard to communicate with him, as he knows just a little Spanish, and I know almost no English, but he insisted on seeing you immediately.  I am sorry to have interrupted your meeting, señor.” 

Por nada,” Alejandro said, getting up and walking toward the high-ranking seaman, his hand outstretched in greeting.  He was impressed that anyone from a foreign ship would travel this far to see him, and realized that he must have a very important message.  But who in the world would be sending me a message by ship? he thought, puzzled.  “I am Alejandro de la Vega.  How can I help you?” 

Harmon pointed to Alejandro.  “You are Alejandro de la Vega?” he said in halting Spanish.  Alejandro nodded.  “Then I have a . . . packet for you,” he said.  

“A packet?” Alejandro asked.   “Who would be sending me a packet?” 

The sailor pondered his words, and then he smiled in understanding.   He looked at the pouch in his hand and then back up at Alejandro.  “The packet is from Diego de la Vega,” he said.

Alejandro’s eyes widened in shock as he heard the captain say his son’s name.  “Diego?” he asked.  “Diego?”  The Americano simply handed him the packet, which Alejandro had trouble holding because his hands were trembling.  The caballero kept silently chanting the same prayer as he looked at the packet. Dios mio, please let it be so.  Let it be from Diego.  He looked at one side of the packet and saw the flowing script that characterized Diego’s handwriting.  “Diego,” he whispered.  “Diego, my son.”  Then his voice raised as joy filled his heart.  “Diego!  Oh, my son!  My son!  Isabella was right!”  Remotely, through blurred eyes, he noticed that Bernardo’s cheeks were wet with tears and he knew that his own were as well.

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty-three
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