Cupid Wears Black
Diego and Bernardo rode in sight of the little house, they saw the
wolf/dog lying motionless in front.
Jumping off his horse, the caballero
dashed into the house, and finding nothing went back out to the porch,
while Bernardo checked on Joe’s companion.
Quickly noting the left behind clothes and the tracks of several
horses, Diego came to the only conclusion he could; Joe Crane had been
stay here. I will be right
back.” The servant made a
swishing sound and Diego nodded, swinging onto his palomino.
Quickly he turned the horse’s head and galloped in the
direction of the de la Vega hacienda.
an hour, Zorro was traveling swiftly back to Carlotta’s house, where
he was met by Bernardo and a fully recovered Lobo.
The wolf/dog growled softly, but stopped when Bernardo reassured
him with a pat on the head. “Have
you found any other clues as to where Señor Crane was taken?”
Bernardo signed his discovery that four men had ridden away on horseback
with another on foot. He
pointed to the animal and indicated the wolf/dog’s desire to follow
the trail. Zorro
glanced in the direction Bernardo was pointing and nodded.
“Yes, that is the direction of Don Carlos’ hacienda.
They cannot have gone too swiftly, with Señor Crane on
made more signs. “No, my
friend, if Don Carlos had wanted him dead right now, his body would have
been laying next to his companion’s.”
Zorro looked at the wolf/dog and then back at the trail.
“I have the inkling of an idea.
Now go into the pueblo and get the señorita, her
father and Padre Manuel, and take them to Don Carlos’ hacienda.
Wait nearby until you see my signal.”
had an idea of what his patrón was
thinking and he smiled broadly. After
giving him a few more instructions, Zorro watched the mute mount his
horse and ride back to Los Angeles.
Turning back to the wolf/dog, he looked the animal in the eyes
and rubbed around his ears. The
wolf whined very softly in his throat, continually looking in the same
boy, that is what I want you to do.
Find your friend, Joe Crane.
Find him. Find Joe. Go!”
he commanded and let the animal go.
Like a ball from a musket, the wolf/dog shot down the trail,
silently but steadily. Swinging
on Tornado, Zorro followed. After
a quarter mile, the outlaw was assured of Joe Crane’s destination.
Whistling to the panting animal, he halted the stallion and
waited for the wolf to come to him.
With a whine, Joe Crane’s friend dropped to his haunches and
gazed at Zorro. Another
whistle and Lobo leaped onto the front of the masked man’s saddle.
Tornado snorted, but was otherwise calm. Soon they were galloping along the trail once more.
Zorro noticed signs of Joe Crane’s struggle to stay on his feet.
Small spots of blood dotted the route and signs that the mountain
man had fallen were evident as well.
But amazingly, the Americano seemed to have fallen very
seldom. As they approached
the ridge overlooking Don Carlo’s hacienda, Zorro noticed a
rope being thrown over a large branch of a massive oak.
Joe Crane was sitting against the trunk, his long handled
underwear brown from the dust of the trail, his feet bloody and swollen,
but his eyes still defiant and full of anger.
The wolf/dog growled and started to jump down.
“No, Lobo. Wait.
You will get your chance.”
back into a small saddlebag, Zorro pulled out a short length of rope and
tied it around the wolf’s neck, hanging on to the other end.
“Tornado, wait here,” he said, dismounting and lifting Lobo
down. Calling softly to the
wolf, he made his way quickly toward the oak tree that was near the
front of the hacienda. “Shh.
Stay,” he admonished the agitated animal as they waited behind
brush near the tree. A vaquero
patrolled very near their position and Zorro waited until the man was
within arm’s length. Then
he reached out and grabbing him around the neck, pulled him toward him,
using a rock to render him unconscious.
His ambush of the vaquero was masked by Don Carlos’ triumphant laughter.
A pistol was jerked from the man’s sash and Zorro pulled the
hammer back and aimed.
other vaqueros had put noose
around the Americano’s neck and sat him on a horse. The other end of the rope had been tied off on another branch
and Don Carlos stood behind the horse, a switch poised to strike the
animal’s rump. Swish, and the horse squealed with sudden fright, bolting.
A pistol shot rang out, the rope parted and Joe landed heavily on
the ground, the severed rope hanging loosely against his back.
“Get him, boy,” Zorro cried, pointing to Don Carlos, and
jerking the rope from around the wolf’s neck.
and man, in shades of black and gray, dashed into the knot of men and
began laying into them. Lobo
unerringly leaped for Don Carlos and knocked him to the ground, growling
and snapping in his face. Screaming
for help, Don Carlos went white with fear.
The wolf’s teeth came closer and closer, and hot saliva dripped
onto the hacendado’s cheek.
Zorro knocked one man unconscious with the hilt of his sword.
“ Señor Crane, it would seem that your El Lobo is
acquitting himself very well,” Zorro said with a laugh.
Crane was struggling with his bonds, with limited success.
“Well, I would do pretty well myself, if I wasn’t all tied
up.” Zorro worked his way
over to the mountain man, and with a slight motion, sliced one of the
strands of rope binding him. Giving
a mighty heave, the Americano yanked the rest of the ropes off
and leaped into the fray. With
a howling cry, he grabbed a vaquero
around the neck with one arm and hit him over the head with his fist. The man dropped like a stone.
engaged Marco, their blades flashing in the late afternoon sun.
As they circled each other, their feet stirred up tiny puffs of
dust. Marco leaped toward
the outlaw in a lunge that would have dispatched a lesser man.
But Zorro was not a lesser man.
With a laugh, he danced nimbly out of the way, his blade barely
nicking the seat of his opponent’s trousers as Marco barreled his way
past. Growling in rage, his
opponent came at him again. Again
the outlaw jumped to the side and again the tip of the sword found
placement on material, twice this time, before the vaquero was able to pivot around.
Zorro heard the loud, deep laugh of Joe Crane and glanced over to see
him leaning against the tree, arms folded, watching, with two vaqueros lying unconscious at his feet. “Well done, Señor Crane.”
if you two boys get done playing with those pig-stickers of yours, we
can get out of this place, find Carlotta and get the padre,”
Joe commented wryly.
didn’t answer immediately; Marco was advancing furiously, alternating
thrusting and slashing motions. Ducking
as the blade whistled overhead, the outlaw reached in with his saber and
jerked the sword from Marco’s hand, sending it flying through the air
to land in the nearby bushes. The
point of Zorro’s blade was immediately resting against the vaquero’s
jugular vein. “Is
this fast enough for you, Señor Crane?” he asked, chuckling.
Señor Zorro. If you
ever get restless and want to see the mountains, I do believe you and I
could make a good match at the mountain rendezvous.
By the way, I like the little monogram in the seat of that
boy’s pants,” he said, laughing again.
thought you were going to marry Señorita Carlotta?” Zorro
I am, but a man must make a living to support such a wonderful wife, and
trapping and trading is all I know,” Joe answered.
Carlotta understand that?” Zorro asked.
Carlotta does understand that, Señor Zorro,” a soft voice
answered from behind them. Turning,
both men saw Carlotta, Bernardo, Carlotta’s father and Padre
Manuel riding into view. “I
knew that Joe would spend time in the mountains trapping and hunting,
but I understand. Just as
he understands that his home is here when he is not trapping and
sir, gentlemen. That
Carlotta is quite a woman,” Joe exclaimed, swinging his love from her
horse. She handed him his
clothes, which he quickly took behind a bush and put on.
He grunted appreciatively at her foresight in bringing him a pair
of comfortable moccasins, at the same time noticing that she was wearing
a fine lace-trimmed dress and wearing her hair up in a fancy comb.
someone please get this beast off me!” Don Carlos screamed.
Lobo had been very quiet during the fighting; only growling
softly whenever the caballero
of depends, Don Carlos,” Joe said.
you leave me alone long enough to let me and the lovely lady, here, get
married,” Joe commented.
if you let them use your hacienda in which to do it, Don
Carlos,” Zorro added, a sly smile on his lips.
Don Carlos cried out. “You
cannot believe that I…” Lobo growled menacingly.
“All right, all right, you win.
Use the patio.”
señor. Two people
in love should have the benefit of that sala
you are always bragging about,” Zorro told him.
Don Carlos claimed to have furnishings and artwork, the likes of
which could not be seen anywhere except in Spain.
Carlos closed his eyes, still felt the wolf’s hot breath on his cheek,
and sighed. “All right,
the sala, but the dog stays
sir, he don’t. He is part
of the family, too. He will
be part of this wedding,” Joe said vehemently.
Carlotta was laughing behind her hand, enjoying the discomfiture
of the hacendado. She still resented his treatment of her fiancée the first
time he had come to Los Angeles, as well as his treatment today.
his eyes only to see the glittering yellow eyes of Lobo convinced Don
Carlos. “Very well…”
had this planned all along,” Joe said to Zorro, laughing heartily, and
slapping the outlaw on the back.
found it hard to keep his feet after such a blow. “Sí, Señor Crane, it was in my mind for things to
work out this way.”
obliged, although, if you don’t mind, I think the patio would suit me
better anyways. I always
pictured getting hitched in the open,” Joe explained.
Carlotta elaborated for the outlaw.
“And I would be happy to be ‘hitched’ outside.”
Don Carlos sighed a hearty sigh of relief as Lobo slowly got off
his chest. Bernardo
finished tying up the last of the unconscious vaqueros,
as well as Marco, as the party entered the patio.
Zorro. I just realized
something. I ain’t got a
best man. Seeing as how you
have saved my hide twice, uh, maybe you would like to stand by me as I
marry this sweet señorita,” Joe said, almost at a loss for
course, if the good padre feels it would be proper for an outlaw
to be a witness to the nuptials,” Zorro answered.
see no problems, my son, especially if we have Don Carlos here as the
other witness. No one would
dispute the word of such a fine and upstanding caballero
as himself,” Father Manuel said evenly, looking meaningfully at the hacendado. “I have not seen you at confession for quite some time
either, señor,” he added softly.
Carlos nodded, sighing in relief that his sala
was spared. “Sí,
I will witness.”
shoulders slumped in defeat.
Diego wanted to be at the wedding,” Carlotta said, remembering the
asked de la Vega to arrange for residency status for Señor
Crane, since he is marrying one of our local citizens,” Zorro said
hastily. “Even though he
was a bit disappointed, he was very quick to see the need for such a
move and asked me to invite you both to a fiesta tomorrow at his hacienda
to celebrate your nuptials. After
the wedding mass, of course.”
wedding party for us?” Joe asked.
Zorro nodded. “Why,
that’s nice of the young feller.
Why sure, and I s’pose he will have plenty of that frog juice
you call liquor?”
sure he will,” Zorro answered with a hearty laugh. The priest called all of them over and he began the
ceremony. As soon as it was
finished, Joe let out a howling cry, accompanied by one from Lobo,
grabbed his new wife and, crushing her to him, kissed her long and deep.
Crane, my congratulations,” Zorro said, taking Carlotta’s hand,
kissing it and then backing away. “Don
Diego has also arranged a place for you to spend your first night of
marriage. If you will
follow the de la Vega manservant, he will show you.”
rode with the little group for a short ways before leaving them to watch
from a slight rise. Lobo
followed along behind the happy couple.
As the newlyweds rode out of sight, he thought how strange were
the paths of true love.
Valentine’s Day, 2000