mid-afternoon, word had been sent to Sgt. Garcia that Zorro was willing to
ransom the jewels for a fraction of their worth, only eight hundred pesos
for all of them. If the
Morento's were interested, then Sgt. Garcia would only need to leave a
note to that effect on the signpost at the north end of the pueblo.
Don Diego had been in the inn that afternoon and had been listening
to the details of Zorro's plans for the return of the jewels. He, too, had
expressed his shock at the actions of the heretofore honorable bandit.
Garcia, have you talked with Doña Anna Marlena about this yet?"
Diego asked the perplexed sergeant.
Don Diego," he sighed. "I
hate to go back out there when Don Gregorio is still suffering from his
wounds, and ask the doña a question like that."
He replenished his mug from the bottle that Don Diego had purchased
sat pondering the bandit's proposal.
"Sergeant, why not surprise Doña Anna Marlena," he said
with a smile.
do you mean, Don Diego?" Sgt. Garcia looked perplexed.
will put up the eight hundred pesos that Zorro is asking and not only will
the Morento’s be surprised when they get their stolen property back, but
you can capture the bandit when he delivers the jewels to you." Diego
said with a smile, taking a sip of his own wine.
you think that will work, Don Diego?" the sergeant asked.
Sergeant, why should it not work?" he asked innocently.
"And I will get my eight hundred pesos back when you capture
him, and you will get two thousand pesos for the reward."
Diego leaned back in his chair, smiling broadly.
Garcia didn't notice the dangerous glint in the patrón’s eyes. "You will be a rich man, Sgt. Garcia, and you might even
get a promotion."
you are right, Don Diego. That
is an excellent idea!" Garcia smiled back at young de la Vega.
Diego could see the grandiose plans building in the sergeant's
are you supposed to take the note?"
before sunset, Don Diego," Garcia answered. "And the answer and terms of exchange will be on the
same post in the morning right after sunrise." Diego just nodded and
luck, Sgt. Garcia. Let me
know what the reply is in the morning," was Diego's comment as he
left the inn. Bernardo fell
in behind him.
they had reached a spot where Diego was sure they wouldn't be overheard,
he asked Bernardo if he had listened to the exchange.
The mozo nodded. "What
do you think?"
is something wrong with this deal, I think,’ Bernardo signed.
nodded in agreement and said calmly,
"I think Bernardo, that tonight I will walk into a trap."
just stared at his patrón in astonishment and then signed his concern.
this is not the same as when Monastario used Martinez.
I think this bandit is doing this to get revenge.
I think this is a personal matter for the bandit.”
signed, ‘Why do you think that?’
he not only robbed the Morento’s, he almost beat Don Francisco to death.
And then to make sure this foul deed would not be easily forgotten,
he threatened Doña Anna Marlena in a most contemptible way.
And all the while he was stating that it was because Zorro was
tired of helping the people. Then
he offered, almost immediately, the jewels for ransom.
And by using Sgt. Garcia as the go-between, the bandit seems to be
making it very easy for someone to follow this transaction.”
can you be so sure?’ Bernardo signed.
ransom business is just bait. The
bandit knows how much our good sergeant likes to talk, and figures that by
tonight, the real Zorro will be waiting to see who gets the note at the
sign post," Diego explained. "What
the bandit does not know is that Zorro will have a shadow." Bernardo pointed to himself.
Diego just nodded. "You will be my backup, Bernardo, because
we still have no idea exactly what this man has in mind.”
Diego paused and took a deep breath.
“I have to find out what he wants, though.
I cannot let him continue to hurt others because he has a vendetta
against me. You will have to be alert and deal with whatever contingency
might arise. And under no
circumstances let yourself be captured."
was extremely concerned when he heard Diego's plan. "That is not a plan, it is suicide!" he exclaimed
vehemently. "Is there no
this point, I am unable to see one," Diego interjected.
"We know how ruthless this man is and I am afraid that if we
wait for him to make a mistake, someone else could be hurt or
long before sunset, a black-clad masked figure rode out of a secret cave
just inside the boundaries of the de la Vega rancho.
Soon he met up with another darkly clad man not too far from the
north end of the pueblo de Los Angeles. As the pair approached the sign
post that pointed the way to all places north, the smaller figure stayed
well hidden and away from the post, while the masked figure was a tiny bit
more conspicuous, hiding behind some boulders.
An hour passed with little movement from either of the dark
as the sun dipped below the horizon, a corpulent soldier came riding up
the road, singing a barracks song in a rich baritone voice that wuld make
an opera singer jealous. With a small hammer, Garcia took a note and
attached it to the post with a nail.
Still singing, he turned his horse and returned the way he came.
After several minutes, the voice was no longer heard.
dark clad watchers waited. An
hour passed and still they waited. A
not quite full moon rose over the eastern horizon and a rider came from
the north to rip the note off the post.
Then he rode slowly back up the north road.
The masked watcher quickly mounted his ebony horse and followed a
short distance behind. Even
further behind them both came the second dark figure.
Several hours later, a small and circuitous trail led into the
foothills, and another hour after that, the note bearer disappeared into a
cleft in the rocks.
Zorro led Tornado up to the narrow opening and paused, listening for any
sounds out of the ordinary. All
was quiet. Unnaturally quiet.
Looking over his shoulder, the outlaw saw a slight movement from
Bernardo and then the manservant disappeared from view.
At a hand signal from his master, the stallion slowly turned around
on the narrow trail in the event that a quick escape was needed.
behind him, Tornado watched his master walk into the cleft in the
Zorro found himself looking at a double.
Of course, he could tell differences, the man was almost two inches
shorter and his jaw line was narrower, but almost anybody else would have
a difficult time. On his left
stood a very grim faced man pointing a pistol at him.
Zorro simply folded his arms and waited for his impostor to say
"Señor Zorro," the other
Zorro began. "I knew
that you would not be able to resist coming to my little abode.
That fat idiot you call a comandante could be counted on for
that. I am sure that you
would like to know what I have in mind for you."
just nodded. His double
seemed a bit irritated at his sedate manner.
The man's voice was one he had heard before, but he was unable to
figure out where.
a bag in his hands, the impostor opened it and took out an exquisitely
jeweled cross on a heavy chain. "I
hold in my hand the items taken from the Morento hacienda. By you, I might add. At
least they will be found on you when you are captured, Señor Zorro.
And when you are publicly unmasked and executed, I will see my
revenge complete." He laughed maliciously.
makes you think I will cooperate with this little plan of yours?"
Zorro asked simply. Out
of the corner of his eye he saw one of the impostor's henchmen bring a
small blowgun to his lips and with a deep intake of breath, quickly blow a
small dart at him. Zorro jerked to his right, but the dart still caught
him in the left thigh.
double laughed again, as Zorro jerked the dart out and stuck it in his
sash. This new type of weapon
bore investigating later, especially if he got out of this predicament in
one piece. "My dear
Zorro, meet your worst nightmare...curare."
immediately understood the implications of that one word.
Not too long ago, he had read about the poison and its effect on
the human body. Not knowing
how potent the solution was that had hit him, he had no idea how much time
he would have before paralysis set in. Jumping forward, he grabbed the sack out of the impostor's
hands and jumping back, slamming his left fist into the nose of the guard
with the pistol. The man sank to the ground, moaning.
Wasting no time, Zorro dashed out of the cleft and vaulted onto
Tornado's back. "Go
Tornado, that way, run, my friend."
He motioned to the west, toward the ocean.
would continue in his westward course until directed otherwise or until he
could go no further. While
the stallion continued down the trail, Zorro speedily tied the bag to his
saddle, then pulled loose a rope, which he had brought as a precaution.
Making a loop, he pulled it over his right wrist and leaning over,
ran the rope under Tornado's neck. Bringing
it back up, he wrapped it around his left wrist, and the end he wound
around his waist and tied off on the saddle horn.
He was already feeling clumsy and weak as he finished tying the
...run. Do not stop...."
he stammered, and then stopped because he could no longer get his tongue
to work. Unable to hold
himself upright, Zorro slumped over on Tornado's neck, where he could see
the ground rushing by. It
was his hope that Bernardo would be able to somehow keep up with the
stallion and find him when his flight ended at the beach.
If anyone else found him, Tornado would not allow them to approach.
felt the slapping of the horse's mane in his face and the wind whistling
across his body. His mind
worked furiously, remembering everything he had read about this poison. It was made from various plants by South American Indians,
and mainly used by them for hunting purposes.
Remembering that it caused muscular paralysis, Zorro sincerely
hoped the impostor hadn't given him too large a dose, since the heart is
also a muscle. But he didn't
feel that was the case, because his double had said that he wanted him
captured with the stolen jewelry, not dead.
A pistol would have been quicker if death had been his enemy's
desire. Of course, knocking him unconscious and leaving him with the
evidence would have been easier, too, he thought ruefully. This man did not want a quick solution, he wanted
something that was slow, that would cause him to suffer.
the ground speed by through the strands of Tornado's mane made him feel he
was flying and Zorro wondered if the drug affected the mind, too.
Remotely, he noticed flecks of sweat gathering on the stallion's
withers and neck, making him wish he could order the faithful animal to
slow down, as his headlong plunge westward was not being impeded by rocks,
or gravel. After a while,
though, Zorro did notice a reduction in Tornado's speed and saw that he
was running on sand. Stopping
short of the lapping waves of the ocean, the great stallion stood blowing
and pawing. The outlaw could
only lie atop his horse and hope Bernardo would be able to find him soon.
Tornado moved around very little and Zorro found himself slipping
into a state of dreamy half sleep.
had witnessed Zorro’s rush from the cave and was able to see the
westward route that Tornado was taking, but was unable to immediately
follow. The outlaw gang was
heading for a small ravine very near his position.
"He knew!" the other Zorro said angrily as he jerked his
mask down. Bernardo strained
to see the man’s face, but couldn’t, even in the moonlight.
"I should have kept quiet about that."
does not matter, with all of us looking, we will find him lying by the
side of the trail soon enough," another said.
Laughing, he added, "That was a stroke of genius, buying that
calabash of poison in Mexico."
on the trail toward the pueblo,” the false Zorro ordered.
“And if you do not find him, look until you find the trail of his
horse. He cannot last long
with this poison in him. We
will find him quickly.”
was something familiar about both men's voices, but the manservant wasn't
able to remember from where. His
heart quickened, though, at the mention that his master had been poisoned.
He had to find Don Diego quickly, but he couldn’t do a thing
until these men had left.
had his hand over the nose of his mare to calm her, and the pair waited
until the men had passed before he quietly led his horse onto the almost
hidden westward trail where he had seen Zorro guide Tornado. As soon as he
felt no one would hear him, the mozo mounted and sped down the narrow path
as fast as he dared. He only
slowed down to check in places where there was more than one direction to
travel, but generally found himself heading west.
Wondering the reason why, the manservant figured that unless Zorro
was able to give different instructions, Tornado would be on the beach
when he finally caught up to him. And
if he had been poisoned, el Zorro wouldn’t be able to give any different
instructions to the stallion. Hopefully
Bernardo would find him before the outlaw gang did.