Et Tu, Brutus
Chapter Five - The Chase Par Deux
Bernardo worked hard to keep from laughing, seeing how very weary, footsore and angry the caballero was, but it was a struggle. Leaning against the manservant's horse, Zorro saw the effort that the mozo was making not to laugh at his appearance and some of his anger melted away. Smiling as he took Bernardo's hand and swung up behind him, the outlaw commented, "At the sake of seeming sacrilegious, I believe that if God had wanted us to walk, He would not have created horses. By the Saints, my feet hurt!" As he felt Bernardo shake with silent laughter, he, too, began to laugh.
Zorro looked over at Tornado's bandaged leg, showing boldly white in the moonlight. "And you took your time getting here, you scoundrel." The stallion just snorted. "I must admit, Bernardo, I am going to have to find a resolution to this problem with Brutus, or I may become angry enough to take a pistol with me some night and shoot the poor beast." Bernardo made a few signs. "Yes, I know that the animal cannot be held accountable for the stupidity of its owner."
The rest of the way to the cave was made in relative silence. After a bath, a change to a clean nightshirt, and several hours of uninterrupted sleep, Diego was in much better spirits. Over breakfast he pondered the best way to solve his problem, coming up with several ideas. Later in the morning, he and Bernardo drove the carriage to the pueblo to visit with Sgt. Garcia.
At the cuartel, Diego was admitted immediately to Sgt. Garcia's office. "Don Diego, how good of you to come and visit me. What can I do for you?" he said, beaming a great smile.
"I came to see if this wager business was still on. I had heard that Señor Zorro had eluded the dog several times and I was wondering if Don Salvadore has given up the chase," Diego inquired. Garcia motioned to a chair near his desk, and Diego gratefully sat down.
"No, Don Diego, Señor Aguayo is still determined to carry this through, although I do wish that he would give it up. It was so disruptive when Zorro came through the plaza and destroyed a vendor's stand, although I hear the rascal paid the peon for the damage he did, which is more than Don Salvadore has done."
"I am sorry to hear of the inconvenience, Sergeant," Diego commiserated. "You know, I heard that Zorro actually caught the last bandit, so you should not have to worry about stage robberies anymore."
"Sí, that is true," Garcia said, brightly. "And do you know that it was one of my own lancers?"
"No! Are you serious?" Diego feigned surprise. "Which one?"
"Juan Estrada, one of my corporals. He had also been doing the inspection of the baggage to find out who had valuables," Garcia sighed. "What a shame, he had the makings of a good soldier."
"That is too bad." Diego pondered his next question. "Sergeant, has anyone suggested to Don Salvadore that with the bandits caught or chased off, there is no reason for Zorro to show up anytime soon. Perhaps that might discourage him enough to take his dog home."
"Why, Don Diego, that is a wonderful idea!" Garcia exclaimed. "I will go and tell him right away." Garcia got up and then leaned closer to Diego. "I will be glad to see him go, all Brutus does when he is not chasing Zorro is sit under the table and whine. Caesar feels sorry for him and spends all of his time laying next to Brutus and licking his face," Garcia said.
Diego left the office with the acting comandante and crossed the plaza where Bernardo waited in the carriage. Getting in next to him, they both watched the entrance of the inn. Not too long after the sergeant went in, Don Salvadore and his companion came out, Brutus trailing sadly behind him. Sgt. Garcia had Caesar in his arms as he walked back to the cuartel. The little dog climbed up on Garcia's shoulder and whined at his retreating friend.
Bernardo made signs about how attached the two dogs had become to each other. "Sí, Bernardo, but it is simply that Brutus has adopted Caesar as one of his kennel mates. If Don Salvadore had taken the time to check out the breed of dog he was buying, he would know that foxhounds live and work in packs. That is why Brutus seems so unhappy now. Of course, my gratitude is boundless that Señor Aguayo is ignorant of his dog's nature, because if he had brought the whole pack, I might be sitting in the cuartel jail by now. They are very efficient hunting dogs."
Slowly driving the carriage out of the pueblo in the same direction as the two men and the dog, Bernardo and Diego noticed the pair getting their horses from the stable, mounting and riding away from Los Angeles. "Hmm, perhaps my first idea will work, Bernardo," Diego mused as they watched the retreating figures. "Let us go back to the pueblo and enjoy some congeniality before heading home."
Some time later, Diego sat at a small table on the patio of the tavern, staring into the small glass of wine he had ordered over an hour before. He would be sincerely glad to enjoy full night's sleep, uninterrupted by dogs or bandits. As soon as Bernardo was finished picking up a few necessities for the hacienda, they would leave. Sighing, he finished the wine and leaned back in the chair, stretching out his long legs and trying to relax.
A vaquero racing at full gallop into the plaza brought him out of his reverie. Shouting for Sgt. Garcia, the rider breathlessly reported the kidnapping of Señorita Elicia Montoya from her hacienda. With a groan, Diego got up and walked casually to the carriage, as several lancers rushed by.
Pulling out a large saddle bag from the back of the carriage, Diego made his way to a deserted storeroom near the stables, where he changed into his outfit. Stealthily, slipping into the stable, Zorro picked out a suitable horse and bridled and saddled it in relative quiet, the blacksmith none the wiser until a black clad figure rushed out on one of his horses.
Not using the main road, but a short cut known only to a few people, Zorro made good time to the Montoya hacienda and arrived at about the same time as the lancers. Dismounting, he crept closer to the hacienda to hear what was transpiring. The outlaw was as puzzled as Sgt. Garcia and the lancers, when they were told that Señorita Montoya had not been kidnapped, but was safe in the library practicing her music. The young lady came out and greeted the sergeant and his men as proof. Zorro was getting a gnawing feeling in the pit of his stomach that someone had pulled a very cruel joke on him, and he was not amused. As he was reaching for the reins of his 'borrowed' horse, Zorro heard Brutus barking over the ridge and knew from experience that the foxhound had picked up his scent, even though he was riding a different horse.
In disgust, Zorro mounted quickly and galloped down to the highway, deciding that perhaps the lancers chasing him might throw the dog off a bit. "Sgt. Garcia, it is a lovely evening for a chase, is it not?" he called out. Garcia did a double take and ordered his lancers to follow the outlaw. Before they could get their horses turned around, the foxhound streaked onto the highway and after Zorro. Don Salvadore and Señor Alvarez followed closely behind.
Sgt. Garcia just stared at the strange chase. "Sergeant," Cpl. Reyes asked. "Do you still want us to chase Zorro?"
"No, Corporal, he is being chased enough. Let us go back to the cuartel. When Don Salvadore comes back from his fruitless effort, then we will arrest the patrón for...." He looked at Cpl. Reyes in confusion. "What do we arrest someone for, who has said that someone is kidnapped when they are not?"
"How about making a false report of a crime?" Reyes suggested.
"Sí, Corporal, that is a good idea," Garcia said. "Lancers, back to the pueblo." Cpl. Reyes did not point out that Zorro was on another horse and perhaps would not lead the dog on quite as merry a chase as he had in the past.
Zorro was keeping well ahead of his pursuers, but felt the horse weakening slowly. This was no tough stallion, as Tornado was. Again, Zorro felt that the lake and grove of trees was his best option in getting rid of the dog, if the horse could make it. As he neared the lake, Zorro could feel the horse's stride faltering and knew that a plunge into the water would be too much for the fatigued animal. Guiding the gelding near the great oaks, he grabbed hold of a limb and watched the horse continue on without him.
Apparently, Don Salvadore and Señor Alvarez were so confident of their success that they had kept their horses to a slower pace. Brutus rushed past the lake and into the grove of trees. A swirling bit of breeze brought Zorro's scent to the dog and he stood under the oak and barked. The outlaw stared downward in consternation, and then a sudden idea came to him. Running to the next tree, the outlaw jumped down and clapped his hands in imitation of Don Salvadore. "Andale, Brutus, after him!" he commanded in his best imitation of the young hacendado’s voice. "Andale, Brutus, after him!" he repeated, more forcibly this time, pointing in the direction of the retreating horse.
Brutus looked at him for a short moment with his head cocked, but when Zorro called a third time, the dog shot off in the direction the outlaw pointed and began following the horse's scent. Immediately, Zorro climbed back up into the tree and waited for the two men. Soon the pair came into view and paused under the very tree that the masked man was hiding in. A barking in the distance told them the direction to take and spurring their horses, the two men renewed the chase. The sun had now retreated behind the western horizon and darkness swallowed them up.
Zorro sat up in the tree and laughed long and hard, partly as a release of nervous tension. He had not been sure that his little trick would succeed. After awhile, he climbed back down and was again forced to walk toward the hacienda. When he had walked for several hours, he reached the lands of Don Stefano and the distant clattering of a horse's hooves caused him to seek refuge behind an outcropping of rock. The horse stopped near his position, and Zorro ventured a quick glance to see the identity of the rider. By the light of the newly risen moon, he could see that it was Don Stefano, who looked to have been out on his lands all day.
Stepping out from his hiding place, Zorro called out softly to the hacendado. Don Stefano drew in a quick breath. "Zorro!" he said in surprise and then looked intently at the outlaw. "You look as though you need a ride, señor."
Zorro laughed. "Sí, Don Stefano, that I do," he said simply.
"Señor Zorro, I cannot repay you enough for taking me from the path of destruction that I was heading down. A ride is but a small bit of compensation for the debt I owe you," Don Stefano said fervently. He held a hand out for the outlaw, who gratefully took it and swung on behind the older man.
"Gracias, Señor Venado, if you will just continue to your hacienda and then let me borrow the horse, I will make sure that it is returned," Zorro told him.
"Certainly," Stefano said. "But may I be so bold as to ask why you were on foot?"
"You have heard all the speculation about my capture by a hunting dog?"
"Sí, although in keeping with my promise, I did not lay a wager," Stefano chuckled and then sighed. "I suppose that the foxhound ran your horse into the ground?"
"Something like that," Zorro answered. When they reached the hacienda, Don Stefano slid off and wished the outlaw success in thwarting the efforts of Don Salvadore.
"Gracias, Don Stefano," Zorro told him and wheeling his borrowed gelding around, rode back down the road for a short while before turning to the de la Vega hacienda. Releasing the horse a short distance from the secret cave, he watched it trot down the hill in the general direction of its home, before walking into the cave. Stiffly making his way into the secret passageway, he pulled off his boots and looked through the spy holes to locate Bernardo. Finding him in the library with Caesar, Zorro slipped in. Caesar heard him and growled softly, causing Bernardo to swing around.
Seeing the mute's inquisitive look, he explained. "If it hadn't been for Don Stefano loaning me a horse, I would still be walking. It is a long story and I will tell it as we prepare to kidnap Brutus."