Juan's Christmas Gift
Chapter Four - The Russians
Petrov scowled at the shoreline in distaste, and pondered his options as he
stroked the dark black beard that hung over the top of his barrel chest. He knew
he was well south of his destination, but he could not sail back north until the
'Emperor's Jewel' was restocked with provisions. A third of his men had been
stricken with scurvy, which was part of the reason for their difficulty at sea.
When the monstrous storm had hit the ship about five miles west of Monterey bay,
Petrov had been short-handed because of the sickness, and therefore had been
forced to try to run south of the winds.
Now he was
near a port in southern California that was unknown to him and he had heard
rumors of these southern Californians. Ominous rumors. His second in command,
who was the only member of the crew who had known Spanish, had died during the
storm. Pulling on the curly strands of his beard, Petrov grunted and then began
issuing orders. "Dmitriy," he shouted. A more slightly built, younger
man dashed over to him and stood at attention. "You will pick out a dozen
of the most fit men and arm them for an excursion on shore. We need provisions
and I see no other way to get any then to just take what we need if they will
not freely give them to you. I am told that the Californios that live
south of Monterey raise much cattle and fruit. We need both. If anyone opposes
you, do what you need to do to insure the safety of the men." Dmitriy
saluted and turned to comply.
before sunset, the band of Russian sailors was rowing ashore in two small boats.
Shortly after pulling up on shore they came across a farmer with a wagon full of
hay. "Santa Maria!!" the farmer screamed, when he saw the gaunt
and bearded men. They looked to him, for all the world, like demons from Hell.
His load that he was going to sell to a nearby hacendado was forgotten.
The two sturdy mules were forgotten. Throwing the reins aside, the farmer
scrambled down from the wagon and ran into the brush that lined the dusty
roadway. From concealment, he made the sign of the cross and watched as the
thirteen men climbed onto his wagon and drove it back in the direction from
which he had come. The speech the men uttered sounded deep and ominously
guttural to his Latin ears also.
Sidorov laughed in amusement at the sight of the peasant running into the
bushes. "Nikita, you drive the mules. The rest of you get in the back. Why
walk when we can ride in comfortable hay?" Soon the men were resting while
Nikita turned the team around and headed east along the road.
long before the sailors came to a small rancho, and they were perplexed
to note there was nobody around. Shrugging his shoulders, Dmitriy sent the men
in pairs to look around for any foodstuffs and supplies that they might be able
to use on the ship. Soon, the wagon had a small amount of dried beef, wine and
fruit. Heading onward, the Russians next came to a larger rancho with a
more substantial casa grande. This time there were a few servants, who
essentially had the same reaction as the farmer.
them, Misha," Dmitriy ordered, using Mikhailís nickname. The cook, and
the two house servants were herded into a corner of the sala at the point
of a knife. The cook fell to her knees and began praying. Dmitriy was disturbed
at the abject terror that his appearance was causing, but not knowing Spanish,
he couldn't reassure the three servants. "Does anyone know some other
language that these Californians might recognize?"
German," Mikhail answered. He addressed the trio in that language, but they
just looked at him fearfully. Dmitriy then made signs to indicate that they were
hungry and thirsty. The male house servant nodded and motioned for the sailors
to follow him. First they went to the wine cellar, where Dmitriy ordered most of
the men to carry out what they could. Then they went to the storeroom behind the
kitchen, where copious amounts of dried beef hung for easy access by the cook.
There were also nuts, citrus fruits in baskets and vegetables in barrels. It was
all carried out to the wagon.
reassure the man who had helped them, Dmitriy smiled, patted his stomach and
bowed. Then the group headed back to the shore where they had left their boats.
"We will unload this on the shore and Nikita will supervise three of you in
loading these goods onto a boat. Then take it to the 'Jewel.' The rest of us
will go back for another load," Dmitriy said in way of instruction.
"When the vegetables are unloaded, use these barrels to get water at the
spring we saw nearby. We should be in a position to leave with the morning tide,
before these Californians can gather a force against us. Dmitriy fully believed
they were in the vicinity of the place where one of his government's agents was
murdered a year or so previously.
evening, further on the same road, Dmitriy and his group of seven came upon an
almost deserted hacienda. The scenario was essentially the same, but this
time the servants put up a fight. The two menservants were finally subdued, but
not before one of the sailors had been killed.
gut this Californian flea for what he did to Ivan!" one of the sailors said
Dmitriy ordered. "They were just protecting their property. Misha, see if
one of these men can understand you." Mikhail complied, receiving the same
blank stare as before.
Then the eyes
of one of the servants widened and he said in a loud whisper, "Zorro!"
around and saw nothing substantial in the darkened end of the sala. But
he could have sworn that he had barely seen some kind of large animal or bird
flowing through an open doorway into the next room. "You, go and see what
that was," he pointed to one of his men.
a hollow thud came from the other room, and Dmitriy called out impatiently,
"Petjka, where are you, what have you found."
kitchen, Zorro, who had warned the servants to make no noise, knew the intruder
was calling the unconscious man at his feet. He was unable to understand what
was being spoken, but guessed it to be Russian. In the hopes that they could
understand German, he called out, making his voice sound as mysterious and eerie
as he could. "Ich bin Herr Fuchs."
turned to Mikhail. "That sounded like German, what did he say?"
heís Mr. Fox, sir," Mikhail answered.
face became cloudy with anger. He had hoped they would be able to take what was
in this house and quit this country without incident. But apparently that was
not to be. "Lis? Kakoy, k dyavolu, lis? Ya s etogo lisa shkuru
spuschu!" he cursed.
translated, "The Fox? What the devil kind of a fox. Iíll strip the hide
off that fox!" The spectral voice just laughed a merry, satiric laugh that
echoed throughout the room.
didnít ask you to translate that, bolvan, (you blockhead)," he
growled to his subordinate. "But ask him who he is, this fox," Dmitriy
ordered. Mikhail sheepishly complied, but the only response was another mocking
laugh. A slight whispering sound of feet came to the Russians' ears, but no one
could tell in which direction the sound was coming. Dmitriy cocked his pistol
and tried to aim, but found there was nothing to aim at.
Soon a thud
of a body hitting the ground caused Dmitriy to pivot around again, this time
toward the opposite end of the room, where he saw the floating of black satin
and silk and then nothing. Firing his pistol, he knew he had missed when he
heard the laugh again.
some candles, quickly," Dmitriy said in a trembling voice. Another sound of
a slight struggle and yet another one of the sailors was left prone on the
hardwood floor. The remaining sailors kept turning and looking toward darkened
corners. Two more shots rang out, but the whispering of black silk told him that
they had been no more successful then he had been.
you," Mikhail asked once again, in a louder voice. "We should get out
of here, sir," he told Dmitriy.
sailors do not run from men who hide in shadows," Dmitriy said gruffly.
"I am a
poltergeist, men from Russia," the voice across the room said in a manner
that seemed at once ethereal and uncanny. A muffled groan and another body sank
to the ground. Mikhail translated. The other two sailors moaned in fear, and
moved closer to Dmitriy in the middle of the room.
candle lit, I said," the Russian sailor ordered. But as soon as one candle
was lit, a slight popping noise snuffed it out again.
talk, since you seem to have the upper hand, whoever you are," Dmitriy
finally said after pondering for a moment.
down any weapons that you have, gentlemen," the voice ordered. After
Mikhailís translation, the Russians complied. In Spanish, the voice then
ordered the two servants, who had been cowering just inside the kitchen, to
gather up the pistols and knives. "Take them outside the sala, and
wait there," they were told.
what is your purpose for being here," the voice asked. Mikhail translated.
him that we are sailors that were blown off course by a storm and we needed food
and drink," Dmitriy said. "And ask him if we can light a candle to see
with whom we are speaking."
but remember that I am almost as dangerous in the light as I am in the
dark," the voice said. A candle was lit and its light revealed a man clad
all in ebony black, from head to toe. A mask covered the upper face and a sword
was in one hand, with a whip in the other.
known that there had been only one speaker, but the idea that nine men had been
defeated by the subterfuge of one masked adversary, irritated and disgusted him
greatly. Evidently Mikhail felt the same way and tried to rush the Californio. A
slight flick of the wrist holding the whip was all that was needed to bring his
I was dangerous. Do not tempt me further. I would like to keep my good humor,
this season of Weihnacten."
slowly pulled himself to his feet, Dmitriy saw most of his men in unconscious in
heaps on the hardwood floor. He was astonished at the prowess of this masked
man, and said as much.
shrugged. "I had the element of surprise on my side." With a slight
frown the man continued, "Why did you not come to someone during the day
and ask for help. Do you not know that Californios are extremely
been told that a countryman had been murdered in this area and we were worried
that we would meet the same fate," Dmitriy said through Mikhail. The
Russian leader saw Pyotr slipping quietly from the room behind the black clad
man. Perhaps surprise could work in both directions, thought Dmitriy to himself.
But as quiet
as Pyotr tried to be, he was not silent enough. Making a half turn, the point of
Zorro's blade found itself resting at the end of his assailant's nose, while the
whip continued to menace the other three men.
offered to discuss your problem with you," Zorro said, with a slight smile,
motioning for the man to join his fellows. "Californios may act
suspicious at times, but they ARE generous," he added. Mikhail continued
sighed. "Any chance that you speak Russian?"
his head. "I would be speaking to you in your language, if I did," he
do," a voice answered, and a smaller figure divorced itself from the shadow
of the doorway. "Zdravstvujtje," Juan greeted the sailors.
at Juan in astonishment. "How do you do that?" he asked,
helper laughed pleasantly. "In this case, I simply followed you when I saw
you ride through the pueblo," he said to the outlaw. Turning back to
the sailors, he told them, "I am called Juan and this is El Zorro. If you
need help, I am sure that we can work something out. Why not light some candles
so we can see one another more clearly," Juan suggested.
group was conversing, with Juan the translator for both parties.
Captain Petrov that tomorrow is Christmas Day, we should all be able to worship
together at the early morning mass and then there should be some of the rancheros
who will help you, so you can continue your journey back to Russia," Juan
past midnight yet?" Dmitriy asked. Juan nodded. "Then it is Christmas
Eve. I did not even know what day it was," he added in a soft voice.
is, and you might also want to attend the last night of the Posada,"
Juan offered, also translating his comment for the outlaw.
right. Let us celebrate Navidad and then we can provision you for your
homeward journey," proposed Zorro, with a smile. Juan translated for the
outlaw. "Why not go and talk to your captain and we can meet later in the
vam," Dmitriy said softly, thanking Juan and Zorro. The sailors
gathered their still unconscious comrades, loaded them on the wagon, and headed
back to their ship.
Looking up at
the sky, Juan commented, "It is near dawn, would you mind letting me ride
with you? It is a long walk back to the pueblo."
is your horse?" Zorro looked around in astonishment.
"He is obviously not here," Juan answered with a laugh. After mounting, Zorro reached down with his arm to let Juan swing on behind him. "What a glorious day this is," Juan commented brightly as they rode along.
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