A Song of Joy
(A Sergeant Garcia Story)
But Garcia didn’t get time to visit the mission.
By the time supper rolled around a very tired Sergeant Garcia did
not even have the energy to drag himself to the tavern to have a glass of
wine. Diego almost
ground his teeth together in frustration. He knew that the senorita’s time was limited.
During the day he had checked on the ships bobbing in San Pedro
harbor and the only one leaving for Mexico City was sailing on the
following day’s evening tide. When
he had investigated further, there was, indeed, an Isadora Perdiz listed
on the passenger’s list.
He or Bernardo had kept an eye on Sergeant Garcia
during the day and it seemed that the new comandante was determined
to whip the garrison into shape in less than a week.
First it had been the patrol, then musket practice just outside of
the pueblo, then the men were put on clean up detail.
And that was all before lunch.
Bernardo joked that the cuartel had never looked better, but
Diego was not in the mood for laughing.
They took turns watching surreptitiously during the afternoon and
it was more of the same. Close
order drills on horseback, with lances and without them.
Then when most of the rest of the townspeople were taking siestas,
the soldiers were in the shade of the stables, grooming their horses and
mucking out the stalls. Then
Garcia was ordered to inspect the men’s arms, making the lancers clean
them until not a speck of dirt could be found on barrels or stocks.
By supper, the lancers were too tired to even
think of any pleasures, such as wine and cards and women.
Diego noticed that Garcia was almost asleep on his feet before he
could dismiss the men for the evening.
In frustration, the young caballero turned on his heel and
walked to the tavern, where he ordered a small meal.
A short while later, Bernardo joined him; the look on his face
telling the young don that there was information forthcoming.
Diego motioned for the mozo to join him at the table and
watched as Bernardo surreptitiously signed something about Zorro.
Putting down his fork, Diego concentrated on the rest of the
message, then he tossed some money on the table and motioned for Bernardo
to follow him.
When they were away from anyone who could hear
him, Diego asked, “So the reason for all the drills and musket practice
is to catch or kill Zorro?” Bernardo
signed some more. “That and
Montez’s apparent fetish for cleanliness.”
Diego shook his head. “I
think that our new comandante is definitely in the wrong place.”
Bernardo made more signs.
‘How do we get Sergeant Garcia to the señorita before she
has to leave?’
Diego rubbed behind his ear, pondering the same
problem. “The new comandante
wants his men capable of catching Zorro, correct?” Suddenly a huge grin lit his face. “Then we shall certainly let them have the practice.”
Bernardo looked slightly confused, but excited,
seeing signs of a plan in Don Diego’s face.
The young caballero clapped him on the shoulder and motioned
to the horses. “Come,
Bernardo, we have work to do.” Soon
they were galloping out of town, toward the de la Vega Rancho.
An hour before dawn, Zorro was riding into the pueblo,
his plan a little bit tenuous, but his resolve rock solid.
He had hoped that the men in the cuartel would not be up yet
by the time he got to arrived in Los Angeles, but in that he was
disappointed. He heard the
banging of doors and the loud grumbling of men awakened about two hours
earlier then they wished. Although
Zorro knew what he wanted to accomplish, there were many variables in the
plan. The biggest variable
was Capitán Montez, and apparently the comandante had
ordered the men out of bed before the sun rose.
Climbing to the stable roof from the back of the
Zorro watched, wanting to know just what the comandante had in
mind for the day’s activities.
“Sergeant Garcia, you will take the men out on
early morning patrol. You and
I will ride toward the Mission San Gabriel, since that is the last place
Zorro was seen. You will give
Corporal Reyes command of half of the troop to patrol areas further to the
northeast, in case Zorro is hiding in the hills.
This would suit his plans perfectly.
Then he felt a perverse desire to add a bit of dangerous pleasure
to his plan. And to, perhaps,
put the new comandante in his place. It
would also guarantee the sergeant getting to the mission.
Instead of waiting for the patrol somewhere away from the pueblo,
he would begin the chase right here at the cuartel gates.
Zorro did not wait until Garcia had selected the
second troop before he returned to Tornado.
“Ah, my friend, we get to see if this intensive training has done
more than tire out our poor lancers.”
He maneuvered the horse to a place on one side of the plaza
where foliage hid him from view. It
would have been nice to only be dealing with Sergeant Garcia and Capitán
Montez’s men, but he knew that there was always a possibility of
Reyes’ men seeing him before they were fully out of the plaza, and
then he would be caught in a trap of his own making.
He would lead every one of them in a merry chase.
He heard Montez finishing his little speech and Garcia ordering the
men to mount up. That was his
cue to ride into full view in front of the cuartel.
Zorro called out in a loud voice, just as the huge gate began to
creak open. “Hola, Capitán
Montez! Let us see just how
well your training has progressed!”
He pulled Tornado up into a quick rear and then
the pair pivoted and dashed up a road leading toward the north.
Behind him came a surprised shout, “Zorro!” and then, “After
him, men!” Zorro recognized
the voice as the comandante’s.
Zorro’s laugh easily carried back to the lancers as Tornado thundered out of the pueblo. The outlaw did not deviate from the road leading to the mission, only momentarily pausing at the crest of a hill when the lancers fell too far behind. Once, a bullet whizzed past his head and Zorro realized, that while the horses may have been feeling the effects of the previous day’s increased exercise, someone’s aim was still very good. Glancing over his shoulder, Zorro saw Montez shoving his pistol in its holster. “A bit faster, Tornado,” he said, leaning down and patting the stallion on the neck. The horse responded and soon they were almost out of range of the lancers’ bullets. Not much later he arrived at the mission and quickly leaped out of the saddle, motioning to the stallion to wait. The sound of music came from within and Zorro realized that he would be interrupting Mass. Cringing at that thought, the black-clad man, nevertheless, was determined for his plan to work. He waited until the lancers came over the nearby hill and saw him, then he motioned to Tornado to hide around the back of the mission.
Isadora sat on the first pew, holding little
Demetrio in her arms, trying desperately to concentrate on the words of
the mass. This would be her
last mass before Mexico City. Before
her forced separation from her baby.
Such a thought was like a signal and tears softly coursed down her
cheeks. She bit her lip, wishing she could do something, anything to
not have to do this. Father
Felipe’s prayers had not resulted in any solutions; neither had hers.
And after Mass, she was to begin her journey to San Pedro.
Father Felipe said the benediction, leaving a
blessing on all who attended, and then the organ began its final song to
end the worship service. Most
of those around her were neophytes, but there were some local rancheros, vaqueros and servants. While
the church was not full, it contained many of the faithful.
Until she had come here it had been many years since she had heard
so many voices saying the litanies or singing the songs. If only there had been a solution to her problem, she
would have felt joy at the masses and vespers she had attended at San
Isadora had even entertained thoughts that
Demetrio might want to marry her, but she had quickly dismissed that. The
Army was his life and, for the length of time he had been a soldier, he
certainly must be happy with his lot.
Even though the portly soldier had treated her kindly, even
deferentially, why would he want to have as his companion, someone with a
reputation such as hers? Why,
indeed, would any man want to have her as his wife and be saddled with a
child that was not his?
Suddenly the main door burst open. To the astonishment of Isadora and everyone else in the
church, Zorro rushed in, carefully shutting the door behind him.
She heard the worshippers gasp and utter the outlaw’s name, not
in fear, she noticed, but in surprise.
Zorro did not seem overly concerned, but she was as shocked as
everyone else when he dashed past her and, stopping before Father Felipe,
kneeled and said in a loud voice, “Padre Felipe, I invoke
Then she heard the sound of many horses outside
the church, the clinking of armaments.
Father Felipe looked down at Zorro, glanced toward the door and
then let his eyes rest briefly on her face.
Suddenly, he grinned broadly.
“Señor Zorro, again God has used you as his emissary for
good.” He lowered his voice until only Zorro and Isadora, due to her
proximity, could hear, “When you can, go through the vestry and the
cemetery. There is a tiny
gate hidden by vines and brush.”
He grinned even more broadly.
Then he stood up and stepped closer to the priest and even Isadora
could not hear his next words.
“Sí, Señor Zorro,” Father Felipe
replied, his answer coming clearly to her.
“I will be sure to emphasize that.
But should you change your mind after I go to speak to the
soldiers, the way I spoke of is best.”
Zorro nodded, the grin still in place.
He turned to Isadora. “Señorita,
will you please come with me, to assure the soldiers’ good intentions.
I will not harm you or your child.”
She glanced at Father Felipe, who was now walking
toward her, Zorro at his side. The
priest nodded his approval, before looking up toward the organ loft and
signaling the organist. Soft
music began to fill the air once again.
It was solemn, but somewhat more uplifting than what had been
played during Mass.
Isadora was comforted by Father Felipe’s
confidence in the black-clad outlaw, even though she had already felt a
measure of safety in his presence anyway.
She had no idea why someone dressed all in black, wearing a mask,
could make her feel secure, but somehow he did.
Bending, she began to pick up the basket that held little Demetrio.
Zorro was by her side in an instant and she could see where he got
the appellation of ‘wraith.’ He
made almost no noise. “I
will help you with the baby. We
can wait in the vestry.” His
voice was soft and his assurances filled her with even more confidence.
He held out one arm out for her to hang onto.
There was something about this little scene that
filled her with a sense of tingling anticipation.
It was as though something good was about to happen.
Isadora had no idea what that future event could be, but she felt
more optimistic then she had in many days, even months.
Holding on to his arm, they slowly walked the short distance to the
vestry door. Zorro opened it for her and allowed her to enter first.
Her hobbling steps took her to a nearby bench, where she sat down,
gazing at Zorro in anticipation. The
outlaw set little Demetrio’s basket next to her and then with another
grin, he saluted her with both hands and slipped out the back way.
Her eyes widened in surprise.
Exactly what is going on? she wondered.
“He is not as invincible as you thought,
Sergeant!” Montez shouted in triumph as they rode over the hill and
sighted the outlaw. “We
have him, men!” he called out over his shoulder.
As they thundered toward the mission, Zorro sent
his horse away and dashed into the church.
Suddenly the beautiful notes of the organ that Garcia had been
hearing ceased. For several
moments where was only the sound of their horses and tack, and then the
music resumed. Apparently, Mass is not over, Garcia speculated,
feeling the peaceful strains flow into his mind and sooth him.
But Garcia was puzzled.
Why would Zorro do such a thing?
He could easily get away from them.
In fact, he wondered if Zorro was playing some kind of joke on
them. He replayed the chase
from the time the outlaw made his obvious challenge at the cuartel.
All along the way to the mission, whenever Garcia thought that
Zorro had gotten away, the masked man was seen sitting on his horse on the
top of some hill, as though waiting for them.
Then, with a laugh and a taunting cry, Zorro would start the chase
The sergeant remembered an incident at the tar
pits with great distaste. That
was a trap that Zorro had sprung that had taken him a long time to forgive
the outlaw for pulling on him and his fellow lancers.
It had taken Garcia almost as long to scrape the tar from his body.
He was about to warn the comandante when they came over a
hill and saw Zorro dismounted and standing in front of the church of the
Mission San Gabriel. Is
his horse hurt? he wondered. That
had to be the only explanation. Otherwise,
Zorro could just ride into the hills and be happy that he had yet again
outrun the soldiers of the king.
And then he recalled, Isadora is here.
If only I could have a couple of moments alone with her.
He remembered what Zorro and Don Diego had said to him.
Only a few moments. That
is all he would need to convey the message of his soul. His heart beat faster as they approached the front of the
As they dismounted, Father Felipe stepped out of
the church. “Sergeant
Garcia, welcome.” He looked
at the comandante next. “And you must be Capitán Montez.
Welcome to my humble sanctuary, Señor Comandante.”
“Where is Zorro?” Montez asked, without
acknowledging the greeting. “We
saw him enter your church.”
“Señor Zorro asked for Church Sanctuary, Capitán.”
The priest kept a straight face, but Garcia saw
that everyone in the troop was gaping in shock.
He knew that he was. Zorro
asking for sanctuary? Such
a thing was inconceivable.
“What?” Montez asked.
“You cannot be serious, Padre.”
“I am indeed serious.
But he did say that he might consider surrendering himself to
Montez glared at Father Felipe, then at Garcia.
His face seemed a mixture of anger, surprise, disbelief and then
triumph. “Let us go in,
“You misunderstood, Capitán.” Father
Felipe said quietly, his features still calmly serene.
“Zorro specified Sergeant Garcia only.” Montez gaped for a moment and then scowled fiercely.
“Capitán,” the priest continued.
“It is for the best anyway.
Mass is still in progress and to have even several soldiers enter
would be a distraction to the worshipers that I could not tolerate.”
Father Felipe appeared resolute.
“Comandante, I will watch over the
negotiations, making sure that nothing goes awry.”
Father Felipe smiled benignly.
“Zorro does not know you,” he added, “but he does know
“Oh, very well,” Montez said petulantly.
He turned to Garcia. “Affect
the surrender, Sergeant. Unconditionally. If need be, we can wait out this bandit.”
Turning to the rest of the men, he said.
“Take up positions around the mission to make sure that Zorro
does not escape, should he change his mind.”
While the men hastened to do their leader’s bidding, Garcia dismounted and pulling his hat off, followed Father Felipe into the church.