With Friends Like These
|What if Ricardo del Amo
pulled a joke so terrible that it seriously endangered a member of
Diego’s family? How would Diego react?
The short two chapter story gives one possible scenario.
I want to thank Kathy Green, not only for proposing this premise, but for her comments and suggestions for improvements.
All characters in this story originated on the Walt Disney series. I am only borrowing them for the duration of the story and I will put them back for others to play with. Thanks also go to all my friends in Z.
“Ah, Diego, Don
Alejandro, that was a wonderful meal, and I thank you for inviting me to
dinner,” Don Ricardo del Amo stated, leaning back in his chair and
patting his flat stomach.
Don Diego certainly
couldn’t disagree with his friend about the meal. Juanita, the
cook had outdone herself once more, building a feast that he supposed
the king himself couldn’t find fault with.
“Ricardo, now that you
have dined with us, maybe you can tell us your purpose for visiting our pueblo.
It is a long way from San Francisco to Los Angeles just to be dining
with old friends,” Diego prodded, not so subtly. Although he was
one of his closest friends, Ricardo had to be watched constantly.
As the caballero had learned the hard way, his friend’s jokes
had an uncomfortable way of backfiring. Not only were they
embarrassing, but sometimes downright dangerous. So far, Don
Ricardo had behaved himself in Los Angeles.
“I am seriously thinking
about buying land in this area and settling down. Anna Maria broke
my heart, and San Francisco is much too close to Monterey.”
Don Diego knew that his
face was showing some of his emotional output right now, but he
couldn’t help it. The thought of having Don Ricardo del Amo as a
neighbor was unnerving. “Here?” was all he could find to say.
“Sí, my friend.
The most wonderful fruits grow here, and the climate is to my liking,”
Ricardo said, brightly.
down and working the land?” Don Alejandro said, in the ensuing
“Don Alejandro, you
underestimate my resolve. I am determined to live near your lovely
pueblo, find a sweet señorita, and raise juicy grapes and
fat cattle,” Ricardo stated, smiling broadly.
The silence that followed that statement lingered like the oppressive scent that emanated from the tannery during the spring slaughter. Suddenly, Bernardo bumped into Diego’s shoulder, and the caballero realized that he had been gaping at his friend. “Well, good luck to you, my friend,” the younger de la Vega finally managed to choke out.
With the letter that Don
Alejandro had written the night before hidden safely in his hat,
Bernardo sedately rode into town early the next morning. It was
his duty to deliver all such posts, and he did so without conscious
thought. Instead, his mind was on the conversation of the night
before. Sighing, he realized that the presence of Don Ricardo del
Amo would be a continuous thorn in his patron’s side, and he
wondered just how long Don Diego’s equanimity would hold out.
With a wry smile, Bernardo felt it would be until the first joke had
Without warning, a small
projectile whizzed in front of his face. His horse shied, and he
tightened his hold on the reins as he looked for the source of the small
missile. He knew that it wasn’t from a pistol. It moved
slower than a musket ball, and he had been able to barely make out a
shape as it passed by. Laying his heels against his horse’s
sides, Bernardo felt that a hasty retreat was a much safer recourse than
trying to find out what the strange thing had been.
Suddenly, it seemed as
though the entire world had gone mad. More projectiles shot
through the air around him, some detonating nearby. The mare,
which had been nervous before, now exploded into paroxysms of fear,
bucking and jerking around like a demon. Grabbing the saddle horn
with his left hand and trying to control the horse with his right, it
was all he could do to hold on.
Fear made his heart beat like a wild thing; the saddle horn became slippery with his own sweat, and he let go long enough to grab a handful of mane. Then one of the fireworks (for that was what he had determined them to be) blew up near his face. The heat, smoke, and fumes hit him at once. He felt the peppering of tiny fragments of pottery into his skin. With a final scream, the mare was able to discharge her unwanted burden, and she raced on into the pueblo, riderless. Bernardo lay on the road, oblivious to his surroundings. The air, pungent with the tang of the noxious fog, was nevertheless eerily silent and still.
Throughout the day, Diego
sat by his mozo’s bedside, having arrived within minutes after
receiving the message of Bernardo’s accident. In the slightly
darkened back room of the doctor’s office, the caballero had
much time to think, and the more he thought, the less he felt that this
was an accident. One who had mysteriously disappeared after
reporting the incident had discovered the servant. The smell of
his Bernardo’s clothing was strong with gunpowder, and even in the dim
light, it was apparent that Bernardo’s eyebrows had been singed off.
As soon as he knew his friend was going to be all right, Don Diego
determined that he would examine the place where Bernardo had been
Finally, a slight stirring
accompanied the smaller man’s return to consciousness. Glancing
behind him, Diego saw the doctor far from the open door.
“Bernardo,” he whispered, his voice tight with anxiety.
“Bernardo, it is I, Diego.” The servant’s hand found his arm
and clutched onto it as though to a lifeline. “How do you
Bernardo pointed to his
head and made signs to indicate a headache, and then he made signs for
Don Diego to light a candle so he could see. Fingers of icy fear
began to walk up and down his spine. “Of course,” was all the caballero
Lighting a taper and
setting it in a sconce near the bed, Diego gazed into his friend’s
eyes and saw no recognition of his surroundings. After a minute,
the mute made more signs.
“Yes, my friend, I did
light a candle,” Diego said softly, drawing his hand in front of
Bernardo’s eyes. There was no flinching, no recognition of
Bernardo made more signs,
which in his grief, Diego had trouble following. The signs were
repeated. “Wait, let me get the doctor,” he said.
The servant groped and
found his sleeve, stopping him momentarily. More signs. Don
Diego’s breath caught in his throat.
“I don’t know if this
blindness is permanent, Bernardo. Let me get the doctor,” he
The doctor could only
offer hope, but nothing more than that. “It sometimes happens
that the eyes heal themselves and sight returns in time. I think
that total rest is the best thing. I will apply a bandage to give
his eyes a chance to heal, Diego,” the doctor told him. “I am
also worried about head injury. He has quite a good-sized lump on
his head. I think that he should stay in the pueblo
overnight, and then if you are careful, he can go back to the hacienda
in a carriage.”
Diego murmured. He sat quietly while the physician applied the
bandage and then gave Bernardo some tea to drink.
Several hours later, after
he had taken a room at the inn, Diego helped the manservant to bed and
sat morosely pondering the day’s events. When Bernardo had
finally gone to sleep, he slipped out and walked down the stairs to the
serving area, where he ordered a glass of wine. Sergeant Garcia
soon joined him.
“Ah, Don Diego, how is
the little one? Such terrible news, and to think that a fall from
a horse could do such a thing,” the obese soldier said.
“Bernardo is as well as
can be expected, Sergeant,” Diego commented. “And it was not a
fall from a horse.”
“Well, Diego, please let
me offer my sympathy,” another voice said, coming from behind him.
It was Ricardo.
Diego motioned to another
chair. “Please be aware that I am not going to be good company
tonight,” he said, sipping his wine.
“What do you mean, Don
Diego?” Garcia asked, while motioning for more wine. “He did
not fall from his horse?”
“Sí, he did,
Sergeant, but only after something with gunpowder blew up near him.
There was a strong smell of gunpowder, and his clothes as well as
his eyebrows were singed.”
“Ah, maybe that would
explain the pieces and bits of paper, pottery, and twine scattered
nearby. I was wondering about that,” the sergeant mused.
Don Diego stared into his
wineglass. “Paper, pottery? Without seeing the area
myself, that still sounds a great deal like fireworks.”
“Why, yes, Don Diego,
that would explain things perfectly, would it not?” Garcia said,
looking gratefully at the caballero for coming up with the answer
to this puzzle.
“Yes,” Diego said
tersely, looking up into his friend’s eyes. Don Ricardo suddenly
looked nervous. “You were playing another joke, weren’t you,
Ricardo? Another senseless, useless, inane joke.” The
other man turned pale under Diego’s glare.
Finally, Ricardo looked
down at his fingers. “Sí, Diego, I was trying to play a
harmless joke. Bucking horses dump you and your servant into the
dust. But something went wrong. The fireworks did not
cooperate; one went too close. I did not mean for him to be hurt.
He will be all right, will he not?” Ricardo babbled, still looking
down, not seeing the dangerous glint in Diego’s eyes. Garcia
looked fearfully from one man to the other.
Ricardo also didn’t see
his friend rise slowly from his chair, his fists balled so tightly that
the knuckles were white. “Sí, Ricardo, he will be all
right. He cannot speak, he cannot hear, and now he cannot see, but
he will be all right,” Diego hissed, his voice dripping with white-hot
anger. “When will it ever dawn on you that you could kill
someone with your idiotic pranks?” he added, his voice rising in his
anger. The other patrons stopped their conversation and stared.
Ricardo looked up in alarm.
Suddenly, Don Diego’s
anger and frustration were too much to hold in. With an almost
imperceptible move of his arm, the little table was swept aside, and the
front of Ricardo’s shirt was clutched in a choking grasp that was like
iron. Diego shoved the other man against the wall, and the only
thing that Don Ricardo could see was the flashing of rage in his
friend’s eyes, a rage that he had never seen before. It was a
rage that frightened him, because it was a killer’s rage.
“Diego, I did not mean
to harm your servant! Please, you are choking me! I am
sorry, I really had no intention to hurt him!” Ricardo gasped out.
Diego continued to keep
Ricardo shoved painfully against the wall while his right fist swung
back for a blow. Suddenly, the hand was caught in a vise-like
grip, and several other hands grabbed at him, jerking him away from his
“Don Diego, I cannot let
you do this,” Sergeant Garcia said. “Corporal Reyes, Private
Ortega, hold him.”
Don Diego struggled, but
it was no use. Garcia and his lancers held him until del Amo was
safely out of his grasp and gone from the tavern.
“Diego, my son!”
His father’s voice cut through his rage. “Control yourself!”
Blinking and then shaking
his head, Diego let some of the rage flow away. A motion from
Garcia, and the lancers fell away as well, leaving the father and son to
face each other.
“Come, Diego, let us go
and talk privately.”
The two men walked out
into the cooler evening air until they were alone. “Your anger
and grief are understandable, my son, but you gave many people food for
Sighing, Don Diego said
nothing for a few minutes. “I am sorry, Father. I--when I
think of--by the saints, what Ricardo did to Bernardo is too much to
bear! I still wish that he was near, that I could let my fist tell
him how I feel--”
“Diego, will that bring
back Bernardo’s sight?” Don Alejandro asked. Then a strange
thought occurred to him. “It is ironic. Usually, you are
the one trying to cool me down, giving me logical reasons for not
taking violent action.”
The rage had melted away,
but there was still enough of the anger left that Don Diego didn’t see
the irony of his father’s statement. “Father, Ricardo cannot
be allowed to walk away from this without any punishment whatsoever.
He has never taken seriously the consequences of his reckless actions,
not even when he was almost hanged for impersonating Zorro.”
“I agree, son. He should
understand the misery he has caused people, but not by violence,”
Don Alejandro said.
“I must return to
Bernardo. He might need me,” Diego said, changing the subject.
“Let me stay with him
for a while. Why don’t you ride out into the hills, and let the
cool air clear your thoughts? Perhaps something will occur to
you,” Don Alejandro suggested enigmatically. “And besides,
Diego, if Bernardo is permanently blind, he must be allowed to
cope with it, just as he has coped with being mute. He must not be