"HANDS OF FATE"
[parts of the following scene taken from "A Deal With the Devil" written by Suzanne Herrera]
"I thought you might be paying me a little visit, Alcalde," drawled Zorro audaciously. "So I took the precaution of asking Toronado to stop by."
Palomarez snatched the keys from Ramón's hand then stepped up to the bars, jamming one of them into the lock. "You are going to hang," he vowed viciously.
"Colonel, we have an appointment with fate, remember," Zorro said just before he whistled loudly. The window bars of his cell were abruptly yanked from the adobe. Hoof beats and a horse's whinny left no doubt as to the cause. The masked man tilted his head gallantly. "Buenas noches, Señores."
He then jumped through the gaping hole in the wall and to freedom. Toronado had circled back around and came to a halt when he saw his master approaching. Before swinging up onto the Andalusian's back, Zorro sliced the rope whose one end was attached to the horse's saddle and the other to the iron window grate.
After making the pretense of riding out of town, Zorro then doubled back to the pueblo. He climbed up to the cuartel roof and walked carefully up to the window that was curiously place near the roof's peak. Zorro quietly eased it open. He looked down upon the Alcalde and Palomarez; the former pacing back and forth in his office, the latter leaning against Ramón's desk.
"I had him, I had him," ranted the commandante who then pounded his right fist onto his left hand.
"Yes, you had him," drawled the colonel sarcastically.
The Alcalde stopped his frantic movement then headed for the door that led to the cuartel's courtyard.
"Where are you going?" asked Palomarez.
"To have my lancers bring back Mendoza and Señora de la Vega," Ramón explained as he turned to face the other man.
"That won't be necessary," the colonel stated with a shrug. "I think the señora has been through enough for one night. Someone else needs to be selected to take her place at dawn."
"Very well," said the Alcalde a bit nervously. "Did you have anyone in mind?"
"The woman who runs the tavern," Palomarez began, "I've heard Zorro is quite fond of her."
High above them, the masked man's heart skipped a beat. Dios, no, he pleaded silently, not Victoria.
Ramón shook his head. "I've tried hanging her before in order to lure out that masked menace. He'll see through that ruse easily."
The colonel lifted his leg and sat on the desk. "Yes, I see." He brought up his hand to stroke his chin. "Zorro will hardly come running to your rescue," he declared, then in a lower voice added, "more's the pity." He thought for a moment then asked, "What about that fat sergeant of yours. He'd do nicely."
The Alcalde stared incredulously over at his companion. "Mendoza?" he queried in a strangled voice. "But Colonel. . ."
"As soon as the sergeant returns, he is to be placed in the jail to await his execution," demanded Palomarez. "I trust everything else is in order?"
"Si, Colonel," began Ramón, "but. . ."
"Dismissed," the colonel said coldly. "I'll be at the tavern if you need me."
He turned and walked out of the office, closing the door firmly behind him. From his vantage point, Zorro could see that the Alcalde was stunned by Palomarez's command to hang Mendoza. Then he watched as Ramón's mouth grew into a wide grin.
. No doubt glad that it wasn't his own neck being threatened with the noose, the man in black mused as he gingerly closed the office skylight.
Vowing to return at dawn to confront Palomarez and rescue the good sergeant, Zorro rode Toronado out of Los Angeles, turning north toward the de la Vega hacienda.
Diego emerged from his bedroom, dressed in blue trousers and a white shirt he was in the process of buttoning when Zafira and Mendoza arrived at the front door. After the sergeant explained the details of her release, he saluted and left. Zafira immediately went to her room, saying she was exhausted. Diego and Don Alejandro just stared at each before the elder de la Vega headed for his own bedroom. Instead of retiring as well, Diego and Felipe made their way to the library fireplace.
Diego spend the next two hours setting his scheme in motion. With Felipe's help, he made a quiver full of gunpowder tipped arrows. A sleepy but worried Felipe waved goodbye as Zorro rode Toronado from the secret cave.
Streaks of light were just beginning to make their way over the eastern horizon as the masked man used his whip to scale the side of the church. Zorro watched from the church's roof as Victoria kissed the condemned sergeant on both cheeks. In the last few months, she seemed to have gotten over the animosity she had held against the garrison's soldiers and Mendoza in particular.
He then glared with narrowed eyes as Palomarez handed the Alcalde a scroll which Ramón unrolled. Zorro was surprised to hear the commandante's voice crack with emotion as he read from it.
"Under emergency law and authority of the King in Spain, the prisoner is sentenced to death by hanging."
With his bow loaded with one of the gunpowder-tipped arrows, Zorro let it fly as the Alcalde uttered the last word of the proclamation. He smiled appreciatively as it exploded on impact and caused the chaos he had expected. The people who had gathered in the plaza began to scream and run around in every direction. The man in black shot off several more arrows, with the same results.
Zorro grinned even broader as he heard the colonel order the soldiers to mount their horses. He waited until Ramón led the lancers out of the plaza before aiming an arrow at the rope around Mendoza's neck. After successfully severing the noose, he swung down from the roof of the church and confronting the mad colonel.
Palomarez was the most competent swordsman the man in black had matched blades with in quite some time. Soon, however, Zorro found the weaknesses in the other man's skill and wasted little time in totally humiliating the celebrated colonel, eventually draping him across the back of a donkey, which he then sent out of town.
Zorro was still grinning as he rode Toronado
back to the entrance of the secret cave.
Z Z Z
In the months following Zafira's narrow escape from the gallows, Diego's alter ego managed to stay very busy. Zorro spent his time catching a jewel thief, exposing an imposter posing as the pueblo's new priest, and uncovering a so-called ‘ghost' who was trying to drive Mendoza out of the hacienda he had inherited from a distant relative, which the stout sergeant then decided to donate for use as an orphanage.
The masked man also tried to stay away from the lovely young señorita who ran Los Angeles's only inn but it proved difficult to do. The marriage between Diego and Zafira deteriorated with each passing month. On a typical day, they barely spoke a dozen words to each other. They were like two specters themselves, haunting the same house but whose paths rarely crossed. Diego hadn't slept with her in months, not since before she announced that she had been pregnant.
But it proved almost impossible to keep his distance from Victoria. Diego sat at the desk in the study of the de la Vega hacienda one afternoon, writing a letter to his amigo, Miguel. His mind kept drifting, however, to the last encounter which had happened a month earlier between Victoria and the man in black.
Bounty hunters had descended upon the pueblo, trying to collect the rewards offered for the capture of the local Indians who were being blamed for robbing government gold shipments and murdering the guards traveling with the payloads.
Zorro had climbed into the window of Victoria's bedchamber and thinking, not for the first time since he had lost count of how many times he had entered her room this way, that she should keep it locked. Stealthily, he had stepped over to her bed and gazed down on her sleeping form.
"Victoria," he whispered, touching his black-gloved hand to her shoulder and gently shaking her. Her eyes popped open.
"Zor. . .!"
The same hand lightly covered her mouth as he brought the index finger of his other hand to his lips. "Shh," he cautioned as he removed his hand. "We don't want to alarm your guests."
Victoria sat up and yawned. "Zorro, what are you doing here?" she had asked curiously. She smiled at him, her brown eyes full of love, causing his heart to skip a beat.
"I need you to lure Señor Hawkes from his room so I can search it," he stated as he crossed his arms over his broad chest.
"Oh." Zorro heard the disappointment in her voice. Victoria looked up at him and sighed forlornly. "What do you want me to do?"
"Tell him you heard a noise downstairs and that you want him to investigate," suggested the man in black.
"Why do you want to look in his room?" she inquired. "Do you think he. . ." She shook her head. "I think it is terrible how he and his friends are terrorizing the pueblo's Indians. I find it hard to believe they are the cold-blooded thieves and murderers everyone believes them to be."
"My sentiments exactly," said Zorro, as he had gazed down in her passionate and beautiful face. "I'll wait upstairs," he added, turning his back as she started to climb out of bed. The glimpse he had caught of her in her thin cotton nightgown stirred his desire. And it didn't help to recall just how long it had been since he had been able to slake his lust
[parts of the following scene taken from "The Unhappy Medium" by Bruce Lansbury]
Diego was replaying the scene over again in his head, when his father wandered into the room. Diego immediately became concerned as he noticed the old don's face. There was confusion there, as well as pain. Diego wondered at its cause.
"Diego," Don Alejandro said. "You fancy yourself a scientist. What do you make of those people who say they can contact those who have passed from this world?"
There was a catch in the older man's voice that caused Diego to pause and carefully weigh his reply. "I think they cannot do what they claim. That once a person has died, we can no longer communicate with them. I know, however, that some people genuinely believe that the departed do talk to us. Why do you ask?"
"There is this woman staying at the tavern," his father replied. He began to pace in front of the desk as Diego stared at him worriedly. "Arturo says that this Mayatana contacted his father. That she told him things that only his father would have known." He stopped pacing for a moment then sighed heavily. "She said she had a message for me from your mother."
Diego glanced up at the elder de la Vega in alarm. "I don't believe it," he stated skeptically.
"I'm not even sure I believe it myself," said Don Alejandro. He resumed his pacing. Diego eyed him uneasily before going back to his letter to Miguel.
"But she called me out of the crowd," said the old don after a few minutes. "She even knew your mother's name."
"So did everyone else in the pueblo," Diego commented drily.
"But I heard from others beside Arturo,"said his father, shaking his head. "Fernando Alvarez talked with his mother and she's been dead for eighteen years. Enrique to his infant son who told him when the books were to arrive he ordered from San Carlos."
Diego didn't look up as he continue writing. "I find it hard to believe that a two-year old would know the timetables of the Republic's postal system," he declared sardonically.
Don Alejandro rested his hip on a corner of the desk. "Maybe it's true that all things are revealed to the dead," he said with more than a touch of hope in his voice. Diego knew how much his father missed Felicidad de la Vega because he shared the same longing for the woman they both loved so deeply.
He set down his quill and looked up at the older man. "But it isn't true that Mother would need this Mayatana woman to do her talking for her," he said then smiled wistfully as he recalled his beautiful mother "She was never at a loss for words, remember?"
His father chuckled fondly. Diego sighed inwardly with relief.
"I think that what Mother would tell us is that you've mourned enough," he stated thoughtfully. "That it's time to go on with our lives." He only wished it could be so easy to move on from the muddle he had made of his own life. The indifferent responsibility he felt now for Zafira was nothing like the love that his mother and father had shared. Nor like the love he felt for Victoria.
"You may be right, Diego," said Don Alejandro, breaking into his musings. "But I wish she had the chance to tell me herself."
He stood up and walked off in the direction of the kitchen. Diego twirled his quill as he wondered if his father was going to visit this medium plying her trade in Los Angeles, all on the off chance that he would be able to speak to his beloved wife once again. Diego frowned as he set down his quill and stood up, making up his mind to go into town and learn more about ‘mysterious Mayatana' for himself.
Diego nearly made it to the front door when he was intercepted by his own wife, who was pulling on her gloves. They stared at each other as they stood in front of the door.
"Are you going into the pueblo?" he asked politely.
"What does it look like I'm doing?" Zafira countered contestably. She straightened her bonnet then thrust her chin at him.
Diego shrugged his broad shoulders and sighed wearily. "I'll go fetch the carriage then," he offered as he grasped the door knob and opened the portal for her. She swept through the doorway then stopped on the porch as Diego walked past her on his way to the stables.
They rode in silence the two miles between the hacienda and Los Angeles. Zafira looked up at him as they passed through the pueblo gate
"You can drop me off at the store," she said imperiously. "I suppose you're going to the tavern," she added somewhat bitterly.
Diego glanced over at her sharply. Just what did she mean by that? It was true that he did spend a lot of time at the inn. But just not to be near his lady love; it was also to keep up on the local gossip and to keep an eye on the Alcalde and his garrison.
"At least you don't come home smelling of drink," his wife commented. "I used to hate it when Jo. . .my brother would come home drunk."
"Yes, that is a point in my favor,"Diego drawled sarcastically as he brought the team of horses to a halt in front of the store. He climbed down from the carriage then offered his hand to Zafira, assisting her out of the conveyance. "Let me know when you wish to return to the hacienda."
She gave him a cold look then spun around
and entered the general store. Diego waited until she was inside
the shop before turning and making his way across the plaza to the tavern.
Z Z Z
"CADENAS DE AMOR" - CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE"