"Two thousand pesos," Garcia breathed, still in shock over his good fortune. He got a dreamy faraway look as though imagining all the wonderful things that kind of money would buy.
"Sergeant," Zorro interrupted Garcia's reverie. "Would you please help me out from under this tree?"
"Oh, sí, señor," Garcia answered. Bracing himself, he slowly lifted the large branch, enabling the outlaw to slide out from under the imprisoning limb. Zorro immediately jumped to his feet and attempted to run to the sergeant's horse, but ended up on his knees instead, when his right leg gave way beneath him. Caesar, still growling, started gnawing on his boot. Zorro gently shoved him aside.
Grunting with effort, Garcia slowly lowered the large branch to the ground, not noticing the outlaw's attempted escape, but was surprised when he turned and saw Zorro pull his boot off and examine his right ankle. "What is wrong, Señor Zorro?" he asked in concern.
"Apparently, sergeant, I hurt my ankle when all of this happened," Zorro explained. Removing his sash, the outlaw tore it in half and then tightly bound up the slightly swollen ankle. "And would you kindly get your dog away from me?" Zorro had to grab his boot to keep the offensive little animal from carrying it away.
"Is he not wonderful?" Garcia boasted. "He even helped me capture you."
Zorro mentally winced. "Sergeant Garcia, please do not be offended if I am less than enthusiastic about your new friend right now." He managed to slide his boot back on as the sergeant laughed merrily at his Zorro's comment. When the outlaw looked back up he saw Garcia pointing his pistol at him.
"Señor Zorro hand me your sword," Garcia ordered. Zorro complied. "Now take off the mask, señor. I have always wondered who you are."
Zorro thought furiously for several seconds. "Sergeant, are you not the one who always boasted that when you caught me, you would unmask me in public in the cuartel?"
"Sí, Señor Zorro," the sergeant answered. "I did say that, did I not? You are right, that is exactly what I will do." Zorro breathed a soft sigh of relief.
Garcia looked towards his horse, then back at his prisoner. "Hand me the rest of your sash, señor." Again Zorro complied. "Now turn around," and to the outlaw's disgust, Garcia used the material to bind his wrists together.
Caesar just stood back and growled at him while Garcia gathered what little dry, aged wood he could find and built a small campfire. "I am too tired to try to figure out how to get you back to the cuartel tonight. By tomorrow there will be lancers looking for me anyway and you will not be able to play any of your tricks on me."
Zorro was not overly worried at this time, as he had been able to take advantage of the sergeant before when the man fell asleep. He would be patient. Soon, Garcia began to snore softly and Zorro started working at the knots. It was a great help that his riding gloves had been left on when he had been bound.
Finally, he was able to slip one hand out of its glove and quickly remove the bindings. Caesar growled and barked. Sgt. Garcia snorted in mid-snore and woke up, pointing his pistol at Zorro, who kept his hands behind his back.
"Señor Zorro, do not try to pull any of your tricks on me. I have waited a long time for the two thousand pesos," Garcia informed his prisoner. He laid his head back on the rock against which he had been sleeping and soon was lightly snoring again.
Zorro quietly started to get up while talking softly to the dog. Caesar had barely started to growl when the sergeant jerked awake. Zorro was back in his former position, looking innocently at his captor. Apparently, the outlaw thought in disgust, Sgt. Garcia is so excited about actually having captured me that he cannot sleep as soundly as he usually does. Caesar just looked at him and growled.
Pondering how best to proceed, Zorro realized the danger Bernardo might be in if he came now and tried to help him escape. Somehow, he had to convince the acting comandante that there was no way he could escape and then he might relax. After deliberating a bit more, an idea suddenly came to him and he almost laughed out loud.
"Sgt. Garcia!" he roared, startling dog and man. "Get this beast away from me!!"
Garcia, it had to be noted, came from semi-sleep to a standing position faster than Zorro could have conceived possible. The sergeant stared down at his prisoner in disbelief. "Are you talking about Caesar?"
"Sí, sergeant, I am,” Zorro put a slight tremble into his voice. "Keep that dog away from me."
Garcia was puzzled. True, Caesar had helped catch the outlaw and the dog had been growling at him, but he couldn't understand why Zorro was so adamant about keeping the dog away. "But why, Señor Zorro, Caesar would not actually do anything. And surely you cannot be angry with him." He picked up the little dog and held him in his lap. For the life of him he would have sworn that Zorro had just breathed a sigh of relief.
"Gracias, Sergeant," Zorro said fervently. "That is much better."
Garcia held Caesar out towards his prisoner and said, "Señor, why do you feel that way about such a nice little dog?" Understanding began to glimmer as the bound outlaw backed up as quickly from the dog as he could, a look of fear in his eyes.
"Surely, señor, you are not afraid of Caesar?" The thought of El Zorro afraid of anything seemed ludicrous to him. Zorro was always so self assured and courageous.
"Sergeant, you are the only other person who knows this now. I am afraid of all dogs, not just yours,” Zorro answered plaintively, as though ashamed to admit to so embarrassing a phobia. "I was not able to hide it any longer."
Garcia stared at the outlaw for another moment and then looked down at Caesar, at which time he began laughing, long and loud. He looked again at Zorro, who had a stricken look on his face and he tried to stop laughing, but was totally unsuccessful. Finally he wiped the tears from his eyes, and began to gain control of himself. "I am sorry, Señor Zorro, I do not mean to make fun of you, but it is so funny."
"Sgt. Garcia, you may do anything to me, but do not make me endure the presence of the dog, por favor,” Zorro begged.
Putting the little dog down near Zorro, he admonished Caesar to keep a close watch on his prisoner.
"You are very cruel, sergeant," Zorro exclaimed, staring at the little dog in fear.
"Maybe, señor," Garcia interjected with a chuckle. "But you have dumped me in wells, lakes and tar pits. Caesar will keep you from playing any more tricks on me while I sleep." Sgt. Garcia continued to chuckle for a minute. Then he looked at Zorro with pity before he closed his eyes and began the heavy snoring that the prisoner associated with deep sleep.
Immediately, Zorro held out his hand and softly called to Caesar. The dog slowly approached and sniffed his fingers. The prisoner was very patient and soon the little dog crawled into his lap, begging to be scratched behind the ears. Continuing to talk soothingly to Caesar, Zorro quietly got to his feet, gathered his sword and limped to the sergeant's horse. Sgt. Garcia was still snoring peacefully. Putting the little dog into its specially prepared saddlebag, Zorro swung onto the soldier's horse and quietly headed down the road to Los Angeles.
Bernardo was waiting a short distance from the camp, Caesar growled at the manservant until Zorro spoke soothingly to him. In sign, Bernardo indicated he had heard almost the entire ruse that his patrón had used against the sergeant, signing how funny he thought it had been.
"Bernardo, this is a cruel joke I have had to play on the good sergeant, because I suspect it will be awhile before he realizes how badly he has been tricked,” Zorro admitted. They continued onward and at the manservant's urging, the outlaw related what had happened after leaving the priests.
The sergeant's horse and dog were left at the cuartel gate. The little dog's saddlebag had a small 'Z' carved into it and Caesar was comfortably asleep inside when found by a guard the next morning.
|Caesar Chronicles Introduction|