“I know what Grandfather said, Bernardo, but I
think that Zorro should be out there to make sure everything is going
all right,” Jandro said, pacing in the tiny confines of the secret
room. Since they had returned from the starship and their
visit with his father, he had been wrestling with the fact that he
should be out there tonight—that Zorro should be out there to make
sure that Father was safe.
The mozo tapped him on the arm and then
signed. ‘Zorro does not
need to go out every night and for every possible reason.’
“What better reason than that one of the most
influential members of the area has been missing for more than three
days?” Jandro argued. “Wouldn’t
Zorro be out if it had been Don Cornelio or Don Miguel that were missing
for that long?” The boy
and the man stared at each other. “Bernardo,
the most important reason is that it’s Father.
I cannot do anything as Jandro, but I can as Zorro.”
‘Zorro is not just a disguise. Zorro is a dangerous responsibility,’ Bernardo pointed out.
‘Your father knew it would be dangerous when he began fighting
as Zorro, but I do not think even he realized just how dangerous.’
Jandro watched carefully, and felt that he
understood what the older man was telling him. He
sighed. “I . . . I think
I know that. I have to
admit, it was exciting last night.
I felt a rush.” Jandro
paused and looked down at the floor.
“But I know that things can go wrong.
I was out there with Father.
I saw his blood. I know it can be dangerous, Bernardo,” he said softly,
fervently, looking into the servant’s eyes.
Bernardo nodded, sighing.
‘Only go out during the time that Don Diego is out there.’
“I understand and I will try to get some
sleep, but I want to be near the mission before sunrise,” Jandro
The mozo nodded again. ‘I will wake you in time.’
“Thank you for understanding, Bernardo,”
Smiling, Bernardo signed, ‘I have been doing
this for fifteen years. I
understand perfectly. I
also understand that you are Don Diego’s son.
You have his courage and his sense of justice.’
“I appreciate that, Bernardo. That is a great compliment.”
Then Jandro grinned. “I
cannot wait to see Father’s face.”
‘Off to bed with you, you scamp!’ Bernardo admonished the boy with a smile of his own. As the boy left the room, the old servant shook his head. Only fifteen years ago, he thought. Only fifteen years ago since this own boy’s father had grinned at him in just the same way, just before going out into the dark night against Monastario.
Minta stared through the view screen as the ship
slowly lifted off. She
watched Diego’s shadowy form as he stood against the gnarled trunk of
the old oak for the few seconds that it took the ship to rise high
enough from the ground to ignite the main thrusters.
It was less than an hour before the light of dawn would reveal
the shuttle and they still had to make the trip to the mission.
Minta was grateful that they were just a short distance from the
church. It wouldn’t take long for the Indian searchers to find
While her heart seemed to race in fear for her
beloved, she kept reminding herself that everything would go smoothly
and within a couple of hours at the most, Diego would be safe in the
mission. Still her heart
hammered, her anxiety refusing to be mollified.
She felt a comforting touch on her arm.
“He will be fine, Minta,” Jerintas said as he stood beside
her. “He is
Minta turned to her stalwart mentor.
If she could imagine what having a brother would be like, she
could only think of the last twelve years and know.
And yet, she sometimes thought of him like she imagined a father
would be. She remembered
her last visit so many years ago, and how Don Alejandro had been after
he had warmed to her. Jerintas
was like that, too, sometimes.
Right now, she felt she needed all the comfort she could get.
“I can hear the worry in your voice.
Diego is still very weak, so very vulnerable.”
“Yes, I worry.
He should have stayed on the ship for a few more days, but I
would have expected no less,” Jerintas said with a sigh.
“He has taken enough pain medication to last for several more
hours. By then, he will be
safe in the mission.”
“Yes,” Minta said.
She shivered in her anxiety.
Then she felt Jerintas’ strong arms around her.
“Are you cold?” he asked.
“No, just afraid for Diego.
I appreciate what you are doing for me and Diego and the
children,” she answered.
“I would do anything for you,” he murmured.
The shuttle’s thrusters drowned out any other words.
Within minutes the little shuttle touched down,
almost in sight of the mission. She
and Jerintas stepped through the airlock into the crispness of the early
morning. Slight tendrils of
gold and red touched the eastern hills and the pair quickly moved away
from the ship to allow it to lift off.
They walked briskly to the mission, slipping
into the church. She prayed
briefly and lit a candle for Diego.
Jerintas followed at a discreet distance.
“My child,” a soft voice said from nearby.
She turned and saw Father Felipe. Quickly she joined him where he sat on a pew not too far
away. Jerintas sat next to
her, nodding deferentially to the priest in greeting. The flickering of the candle was reflected in Father
Felipe’s clouded eyes, making him seem almost sad.
“Diego is ready, Padre,” Minta said.
is very good,” he said with a smile.
“How is he?”
“Still weak, but thanks to the doctors, he is
well enough to try to pull off this scheme of ours,” Jerintas said
softly, gazing around at the dark vaulted ceilings of the chapel.
“ˇGracias está al Dios!” the priest exclaimed. “It is almost light enough to send several of my children out to look for him. You two stay here and wait while I take care of that and then we can talk.”
Jandro rode away from the mission in the
direction of the eastern hills, the sun shining fully in his face. His heart was constricted with fear. Father had not been found yet and Mother was almost beside
herself. Squinting, he
peered into the distance, seeing rocks, trees and a great deal of brush
that might hide a man, even one that didn’t want to be hidden.
However, that didn’t negate the fact that his father, still
recovering from a life-threatening wound, had been out in the chill and
damp of the early morning for almost four hours.
The neophytes that had been sent out to search had come back with
reports of having seen nothing, and of course, their word had to be
accepted as they could not be let in on the secret of his father’s
So when he showed up at the mission several
hours after dawn, his journey having been delayed by overzealous lancers
giving him chase, he was greeted by the concerns of his mother, Jerintas
and Father Felipe. The
priest had perused him anxiously, while his mother had gasped slightly
in shock before regaining her composure.
Following their directions he had found the grove of oaks where
his father had been left, but their density, along with the sporadically
heavy ground cover and the persistent foggy mist made him see why even
the Indians might have had problems locating Father.
And they didn’t have the benefit of specific directions either.
Father must have become confused and tried to find the mission
himself. Carefully, slowly,
he guided Tornado between the trees, giving the stallion plenty of time
to pull in the scents of the place.
The ebony horse’s ears swiveled back and forth, his nostrils
quivered and he pawed at the hard ground.
After they had been looking for what Jandro estimated to be about
a half an hour, most of the foggy mist had burned off.
Tornado suddenly jerked his head around and
whinnied. Jandro slackened
the reins and the stallion trotted toward another small stand of trees a
quarter of a mile distant. As
the remaining mist stubbornly continued to snake its tendrils around a
few of the old trees, the form of a man came to the boy’s view.
was Father! Jandro quickly dismounted and rushed to the injured man’s
side. The sun fell over his
shoulder and bedazzled his father, who seemed to be taking a long time
to wake up. Father blinked
at him, and then, as full awareness returned, he gaped at him.
“El . . . Zorro!” Father stammered, lucid
enough to keep up pretenses.
Father gazed at him, his eyes widening in shock.
“I am very glad that you found me. This cursed injury has made it hard to do anything, much less
“Padre Felipe was worried and sent me
to help in the search,” Jandro said.
“Are you all right?”
Father had a bemused look on his face and then
he began to chuckle, holding his stomach as he laughed.
Finally, he gained a measure of control and smiled at Jandro, who
was gazing at him with a puzzled look on his face.
“Seńor Zorro, I cannot explain my amusement right now,
but we will definitely have to have a talk …later,” Father
explained. “But I am all
right, just cold and stiff and tired . . .of being tired.”
Diego sat in the morning sun gazing at the
shadowed face of his son, astonished at how much the twelve-year-old
resembled him. With a sigh,
he reached up with his free hand and grasped at the bark of the tree,
pulling himself up to a standing position.
Jandro grasped him around the shoulders and helped.
Diego let the sun warm his face before he tried to move.
“The Mission is just over the far hill.
Do you think you can mount Tornado . . . Don Diego?” Jandro
Diego considered the question as well as the
discretion of his son as he portrayed the role that had become such an
intrinsic part of his own heart and soul.
He thought that this son of his would someday be taking his
place, doing what he had been doing for the past fifteen years.
Then he pushed all consideration of Alejandro’s succession to
the role of Zorro aside, thinking only of the present.
“I am not sure, but I’m willing to try.
I do not think I can walk very far.”
“It appears that you already have,” the
young Zorro quipped. Diego
Grunting as he lifted his foot into the stirrup,
Diego allowed Jandro to give him an extra boost into the saddle.
Diego slid back and as the black clad youth mounted in front of
him, he rubbed the sore muscles of his abdomen, trying to ease the
throbbing that the recent exertion had brought on.
For his part, Jandro kept Tornado to a slow walk all the way to
the mission. Diego allowed
himself to relax in the saddle and move with the steady, slow and even
rhythm of the horse’s steps, leaning against his son’s warm back,
his right arm wrapped around Alejandro’s slender waist as they slowly
rode down the trail. Well
before they reached the door of the chapel, the bell rang, announcing
their arrival. Father
Felipe, several novice priests, some Indians, Jerintas and Minta rushed
out the door.
Diego almost forgot that he was supposed to be
seeing Minta for the first time, but caught himself and dissembled
again, acting surprised. “Minta!”
he cried out as they approached the mission.
“You have come back!” He
did not have to ‘act’ out his pleasure at seeing her. As Father
Felipe and one of the Indians helped him off the back of the horse, she
stood near the priest’s elbow and when he was safely on the ground,
she took him in her arms and hugged him tightly, as though she really
had not seen him for twelve years. Her attention was not entirely unappreciated either and he
wrapped his free arm around her as well, feeling her warmth, and the
beat of her heart against his chest.
He ignored the lethargy that enveloped him as he reveled in the
feel of his beloved against his body.
“I must go now,” Zorro announced as he
mounted. “Vaya con
Dios,” he said, gently nudging the stallion and breaking into a
gallop toward the far hills.
Feeling the beginning of shakiness in his legs, Diego pulled back slightly, but still kept his arm around Minta’s shoulder. Father Felipe was immediately at his other side and they helped him into the church. By the time they had reached the infirmary, Diego was ready to lie in the leather-latticed bed and sleep until doomsday. The last thing he remembered after Father Felipe and Jerintas had briefly examined him was Minta’s kiss and a blanket covering him. Then there was nothing.