Chapter Five - Diablo Plots Revenge
Bernardo unobtrusively followed the two officials into the comandante’s office and stood at the little window, presumably preoccupied with activities on the parade ground. But his mind was totally focused on the conversation behind him.
"We have received a letter detailing all of your activities for the past two weeks, Comandante." Hernandez waved the letter in front of Villagro's face. "Would you care to explain the reasoning for this tyrannical behavior?"
"The people here are rebellious, they have been influenced by that infernal outlaw, Zorro. They do not obey the laws, are treasonous and disrespectful, and defiant of the rule of Mexico City," Villagro said evenly, his mouth set in a hard line. "I was told to capture or preferably, kill the outlaw, and that is what I was trying to do."
"Apparently the Fox is smarter than you are, Capitán Villagro," de Silva said with a smile. "He also seems to have a better sense of justice."
"Capitán Villagro, I was also sent by the Mexican government, but I was given orders to administer justice, and that extends to El Zorro. He is to be captured if possible and brought to trial. I will find out who is giving you your orders and he, too, will come to trial, Comandante. No one sent me here to be a puppet administrado, and my authority will not be undermined. You are finished in California, Villagro!" The magistrado paused to regain his composure.
"I am a general in the Mexican army, while you are a capitán. I hereby strip you of your rank and position, pending a thorough investigation," de Silva stated formally. "Sgt. Garcia," he shouted, knowing that the corpulent sergeant was just outside the door.
"Sí, General," Garcia said as he came through the door.
"You are now the acting under my command until a new comandante is appointed for this cuartel. I am charging you with the responsibility of posting a guard outside of Señor Villagro's room. He is under house arrest. The magistrado and I will take rooms at the inn, and I will be visiting at the de la Vega hacienda later on this evening," he informed the sergeant.
"Oh, sí, General de Silva." Garcia smiled and saluted. He looked intensely relieved.
"By the way, Villagro, how did you hurt your arm?" The general asked smugly, having noticed the bound and splinted appendage as soon as he had walked into the room.
"That cursed Zorro attacked me while I was making an arrest," Villagro returned.
De Silva laughed. Noticing Bernardo, he quickly jotted down a note and handed it to the manservant. Glancing at it, Bernardo nodded and left.
Zorro watched from the dark doorway of a side room as the doctor cleaned and bandaged his father's wound. "You are very lucky, Don Alejandro, that this was only a glancing wound. Take this cane, and stay off of your feet as much as you can for the next several days. That will give the wound time to close up and heal," the physician admonished Alejandro.
Don Antonio helped his friend to his carriage and they rode out of the pueblo. Zorro's were not the only set of eyes watching the hacendados as they left.
A mile out of the pueblo a dark rider rode up along side the carriage. "Señores, if you do not mind, I will accompany you to the de la Vega hacienda," Zorro said. "Señor de la Vega, I want to thank you for your help in the comandante’s office. I am only sorry that you were injured in the process."
"It was the least I could do to help you after all you have done the past two weeks against Capitán Villagro," Alejandro said with a knowing smile. Zorro rode with them until they were almost to the hacienda and then he left them. By the time Don Antonio and a servant had helped Alejandro into the downstairs guest room, Diego had changed and come out of the library to see what the commotion was.
"Father, what happened?" Diego cried anxiously.
"Just a slight wound trying to help Zorro," Alejandro answered nonchalantly. "But the doctor ordered me to stay off of it." He sighed, and he and Diego both realized how difficult that would be for the elder de la Vega.
"Father, you should leave the daring do to Zorro," Diego chided him. Turning to Señor Briales, he said, "Don Antonio, would you like a glass of wine?
"No, Diego, I must be getting home. My wife will be wondering what has become of me, but gracias." Briales took his leave.
"Father, I almost had heart failure when that pistol went off, you should not have taken such a chance," Diego said, anxiously, when they were alone.
"Do not lecture a father on how he should or should not protect his child," Alejandro said a bit testily. His leg had begun to ache.
A knock came at the door. "Enter," both men said together. Bernardo came in with the note that the general had written to him. Handing it to Diego, he signed to indicate what has happened at the comandante’s office.
"Wonderful," Alejandro exclaimed. "Villagro has been ousted from office. Things should get back to normal once again."
"Bernardo, did the general say anything about coming out here, in front of Capitán Villagro?" Diego asked. Bernardo nodded.
"What is wrong, son?" Alejandro asked, seeing the concern on Diego's face.
"Villagro was not working alone. There are soldiers that do his bidding, gladly, and I have a feeling that because Villagro was stripped of power by Gen. de Silva and the magistrado, he will try to find a way to exact revenge, even if he is under arrest," Diego explained. "I am going out to keep an eye on things. You will have to explain my absence any way that you see fit, Father."
"Well, if we are going to have guests, then help me into the sala, where there is more room to entertain visitors. I can recline on the settee against some pillows," Alejandro told them. As soon as he was settled, Diego went through the entrance to the secret cave and changed into his costume. Mounting Tornado, Zorro rode out into the twilight. Underneath him, even Tornado felt tired.
Diablo seethed at the indignities heaped on his comandante. He would have to take action himself and perhaps Capitán Villagro would reward him with a promotion later. He watched as Don Antonio and Don Alejandro rode out of the pueblo.
Nonchalantly, he walked back to his tiny room and detailed his plan to two other soldiers who were faithful to the capitán. Together the four of them would sweep away anyone who got in their way, starting with Gen. de Silva and Zorro and on down to that fat idiot, Garcia.
Changing into the garb of vaqueros, the three men mounted and slowly rode out of the pueblo in the direction of the de la Vega hacienda. Rubbing the bump on his head, Diablo thought what great pleasure it would be to slowly kill Zorro, if not tonight, then later.
An hour after the confrontation with the comandante, de Silva borrowed a horse from the stable master and rode out to the de la Vega hacienda. Corporal Reyes and Private Ortega accompanied him, at Sgt. Garcia's insistence. The magistrado, pleading fatigue, stayed in his room at the inn to rest.
The setting sun felt good against his back and de Silva was looking forward to his visit to the de la Vega's. He felt that certain things needed to be cleared up, not the least of which was his harshness with Diego two weeks previously.
Bernardo admitted them to the sala, where Don Alejandro was sitting on the settee with his bandaged leg propped up. "Corporal Reyes told me what happened to you, Don Alejandro. I am sorry for the unfortunate incident."
"It seems that Mexico City has as much trouble selecting comandantes as Spain did," Alejandro said dryly.
"Someone in Mexico City is working behind the scenes to further his own vendetta," de Silva explained. "And was apparently going to pay Villagro very well for Zorro's death. Hopefully, this action will end that possibility."
"How many of the soldiers are loyal to Villagro?" Alejandro asked pointedly. Bernardo brought in wine and poured a glassful for each man.
"That has yet to be determined, but I will find out," the general said. "Where is your son, Don Alejandro? There is something I need to clear up with him. I am afraid that I said some very nasty things to Diego the other day, and I wish to apologize."
"Yes, I assumed as much. Diego said to give his apologies, but he desired to avoid any further confrontations." Alejandro looked hard at the general.
"I will have to speak with him later, then." De Silva sighed. At that point, three heavily armed men burst in through the door, startling all inside the sala.
"Diablo!" de Silva cried, reaching for his pistol. Diablo's shot grazed his arm, and the general dropped his pistol. At a motion, one of the other men gathered the rest of the weapons. Corporal Reyes and Private Ortega seethed, but made no move.
"Be grateful, General, that my aim was off. I very seldom miss what I set out to shoot," Diablo smirked. "It is a shame that there are so many bandits in these hills that rob, plunder and kill. The whole pueblo will be talking about the crime at the de la Vega hacienda for some time to come, señores. Where is your son, de la Vega?"
"Out riding, Corporal," Alejandro retorted. He noted that one of the men was standing near him.
"I will station myself outside on the patio for a few minutes, just in case he or El Zorro shows up, and then when I know we are alone, we will finish our business. Keep a close eye on this happy group, Rojas," Diablo said and slipped out the door and onto the darkened patio.
Alejandro waited a minute and then on the pretense of shifting his injured leg, transferred the cane to his right hand and slammed it down on the arm of the soldier near him. The pistol went off with a booming noise, the bullet burying itself into the hardwood floor. De Silva suddenly produced a small knife, which almost instantaneously buried itself in the chest of the other soldier. The private sank to the ground with a slight groan.
An instant later, a reverberating shot echoed in the patio.
Zorro was making another circle of the hacienda and came again on the road leading from the pueblo. Even in the darkening sky, he could see that horses had passed recently. Assuming them to be those of General de Silva and the magistrado, Zorro continued his circuit of the area, in order to come upon the hacienda away from the road.
Approaching the de la Vega home, the outlaw noticed the presence of many horses, more than he felt feasible for the visit of just two officials and their escort. Riding Tornado near the sidewall, Zorro climbed to the top and slipped silently into the patio. A sudden shot from the sala turned his blood to ice, and he began to run toward the main door.
A slight clicking noise caused him to pivot around and a flash and a boom was the last thing Zorro saw and heard. He fell heavily against the planter in the center of the patio and was still.