"Diego," said Zafira petulantly as she entered the library. "You promised me we were going riding this afternoon."
Diego looked up from the book he and Felipe had been perusing to see his wife standing there in her riding habit. She was absently tapping her riding crop against the dark blue fabric of her split-skirt. A quick glance at the clock on the mantel told Diego that the promised hour had come and gone twenty minutes earlier.
"Sorry, querida," he apologized. "This history of the ancient Egyptians is so fascinating, we quite forgot the time." He smiled at Felipe, who flashed him one back. There was no point in mentioning to Zafira the time he had spent showing Felipe the hidden door located in the back of the fireplace.
Diego stood up and handed the tome to the young boy. "I want you to write me a five page essay on the burial habits of the pharaohs," he said slowly so Felipe could read his lips. It was one of those things he was going to have to get used to doing again now that he was home again.
The lad nodded that he understood then sat back in his chair to continue reading. Diego sighed inwardly. He had so hoped that Felipe would have regained his hearing and speech by now. All the doctors the de la Vegas had taken him too had said there wasn't a physical reason for his deafness and muteness.
He turned his attention to Zafira, who was pouting. "I thought you wanted to show me your rancho, Diego,"she remarked impatiently.
"I do, I do," he replied, taking her arm. "Shall we?" Plastering on a cheery smile, he started to led her to the front door.
His wife glanced over her shoulder to glare at Felipe. "You spend more time with that boy than you do with me," she commented before tossing her head in Diego's direction.
He was struck by the venom he could hear in her voice. "He's my responsibility," he said defensively. "It's my duty to insure he receives a proper education."
"Why don't you send him to the Mission school?" Zafira inquired. "Let the priests teach him like the other peasants."
They had reached the front door which Diego opened, allowing his bride pass through it to the front steps. "We did send him to the school for awhile," he answered, keeping his anger in check, "until it became obvious he knew more than the priests did." He stopped and turned Zafira so she was facing him.
"He's a very intelligent young man, querida," said Diego earnestly, "despite his handicaps." He knew the chance was slim he could change her mind about adopting the youth, but he still had to try.
"I don't like the way he looks at me," Zafira said, pulling away from his grasp. "He's impertinent." She walked several feet in front of him before pausing to look over her shoulder seductively. "So, are we going for a ride or not?" she asked sexily. She continued on her way, swaying her hips as she walked.
Diego just shook his head. He didn't know if he would ever get used to Zafira's mood swings. One minute she was a shrew, the next a sultry seductress, and then a sweet, innocent girl. It was hard to know which one she was going to be at any given moment. He was already getting tired of trying to figure her out.
He entered the stables where she was smiling prettily at one of the young hands. The blush on the lad's cheeks meant that Zafira must be really turning on her charm.
"Paco," Diego said, interrupting the one-sided flirtation, "saddle Conchita for Doña Zafira, por favor," He indicated a bay mare in a nearby stall.
"Si, Patron." The stable boy bowed subserviently before leaving eagerly to get the necessary tack. Diego walked over to Esperanza's stall and stroked her velvety nose.
"Hola, old girl," he said as she nuzzled his shirt. "Sorry, no treat today." The mare nickered softly and tossed her mane. Diego laughed as he threw her saddle over her back.
His good spirits were short-lived as his father marched into the stables. "The Alcalde has taken more prisoners," he announced gravely.
"Damn," muttered Diego under his breath. He looked apologetically over at Zafira. "Querida, I'm afraid we're going to have to postpone our ride."
"But you promised," she whinged. "We can just ride to the pueblo instead, can't we?" She glanced pleadingly over at her father-in-law.
"No," replied Don Alejandro sternly. "Los Angeles is no place for a lady at the moment. I'm sorry, my dear."
"Zafira, he's right," Diego chimed in. "Perhaps another time, when things calm down in town." Privately, he was dreading the day Zafira met Victoria. The longer he could put it off, the more time he had to get over this infatuation he had for the innkeeper. Because that was what it was, just a silly fascination. At least that was what he kept telling himself.
Zafira glared at both men. "Fine,"
she said in a snit. Swirling around, she stomped out of the stables.
Diego watched her go before turning to his father and shrugging.
Z Z Z
[parts of the following scene taken from "Zorro: The Legend Begins" written by Robert L McCullough]
A short while later, the de la Vegas were riding into the pueblo de Los Angeles. The Alcalde was sitting at a table that had been set up in the plaza in front of the cuartel. Sergeant Mendoza stood at Ramón's right shoulder, holding a large book from which he was reading out names and charges. A long line of bound men were being held in check by several lancers armed with muskets.
"Alcalde," called Don Alejandro as he and Diego neared the makeshift court. The two men dismounted and walked over to confront the commandante.
"Ah, Don Alejandro," greeted Ramón smarmily, rising up from his chair. "How good of you to come by."
"I need a word with you," stated the elder de la Vega. He and Diego stopped in front of the table.
"Why, I'm quite busy," replied the Alcalde mockingly, "but I can always make time for such a distinguished pillar of our community."
"The better part of my life has been spent in this territory, building this pueblo. I have many friends," stated the old don.
Ramón interrupted what was, no doubt, going to be a long tirade. "Are you running for public office, Señor?"
Don Alejandro, upset by the other man's rudeness, declared angrily, "If you go on like this, the caballeros can't guarantee the safety of you. . .or your men."
"You must know many of our people favor revolution against your rule," added Diego, standing with his arms crossed over his broad chest.
"You don't say," retorted the Alcalde sarcastically.
"You can't bend all these people to your will," stated the elder de la Vega.
"Ah, I have no intention of bending these people," remarked Ramón as he sat down. He leaned forward and pointed a finger at Don Alejandro. "I'm going to break them if they continue to resist me."
Diego made a rude noise while shaking his head in disbelief. The audacity of the man, he thought. Just who did he think he was? He was nothing but a petty official trying to gain power and wealth on the backs of the poor.
His father must have been thinking along the same lines. "I'm warning you, Alcalde," he cautioned.
"Is that a threat, Señor?" queried the Alcalde.
"It doesn't have to be," said the old don. He nodded his head in the direction of the line of peasants. "They'll take things into their own hands."
"If there is anymore rebellious activity, I'll suppress it immediately," stated Ramón autocratically. While he was speaking, a lancer scuttled over to Mendoza and whispered something into the sergeant's ear.
"You can't put everyone in jail," commented Diego.
"No," agreed the Alcalde, "but I can put your father behind bars, and if there's any more trouble, I will. Happily."
Sergeant Mendoza leaned down then and said quietly, "Corporal Gomez just came from the tavern. You better get over there at once."
Ramón slammed his fist onto the table and got to his feet once more. He and the stout sergeant hurried toward the tavern. Diego and Don Alejandro start to follow them, but were delayed by the lancers who were standing guard over the prisoners in the plaza. They too were curious to know what was going on inside Los Angeles's only inn.
"The law should only serve the people, not oppress them," Victoria was saying to Ramón as the de la Vega men entered the tavern. Diego could see the fire in her eyes as she stood up to the Alcalde, eyes that captivated him once again.
Ramón was not so enamored of either the señorita or her words. "You are under arrest," he declared, jabbing his finger in front of her beautiful face. He grabbed her upper arm and began to drag her out the door. "Come with me."
Victoria struggled mightily. "Let go of me!" she shouted.
"Come along," said the Alcalde, continuing to tug on her arm.
Don Alejandro blocked the other man's path. "Let go of her," he demanded
A nasty grin came over the commandante's face. "Stay out of it, old man," he drawled.
Whether if it was the fact that the Alcalde was manhandling the daughter of one of his old friends or that he had called him an ‘old man', or perhaps both; something exploded inside the elder de la Vega. He swung his fist dead center into Ramón's face, nearly knocking the other man off his feet and causing him to lose his grip on Victoria.
"Oh!" exclaimed Victoria as she almost landed on the floor as well.
Diego tried to step forward but two of the soldiers crossed their muskets in front of him, putting a halt to his progress. The Alcalde was holding his nose as he regained his footing. Taking his hand away from his face, he noticed the blood smeared on his glove and smiled evilly.
"You are under arrest," he announced to Don Alejandro. He grasped Victoria's arm again and pulled her toward him. "You come with me. This establishment is under military rule." He glanced around until he found the round face of his sergeant. "Mendoza, you are in charge."
Ramón then proceeded in dragging the outspoken señorita from her tavern; this time his way was not impeded. Mendoza looked around the tavern in a daze, not quite believing his good fortune.
"Me? I'm going to run this tavern?" he uttered in disbelief.
The elder de la Vega was led away by two lancers while Diego could only stand by helplessly as he was still being held back by the two soldiers. Well, they couldn't contain him here all day, he surmised. Sooner or later, they would get bored with their guard duty and let him go. Diego remember his lessons with Sir Edmund. Patience, the wise Englishman had always counseled.
Only a few minutes later the lancers lowered their weapons. "You can go," one of them said. Diego figured his release might have more to do with the wine that Mendoza was beginning to pour freely than any perseverance on his part. He wasted no time dwelling on it, instead making his way across the plaza to the garrison.
Diego flung open the door of the Alcalde's office and strode into the room. "I demand the release of my father."
"Do you now?" queried Ramón sitting calmly at his desk.
"I do," replied Diego defiantly. He looked intimidatingly at the Alcalde, causing the other man to get to his feet so he could look Diego in the eye.
"Well, I can imagine how you feel," the Alcalde began, "but try to see things from my point of view, Don Diego. Your father is a respected elder in the pueblo. His word carries a great deal of weight."
Diego was not impressed by his explanation. "You don't put a man in jail for that."
"No," Ramón conceded, "but I can put a man in jail for assault on a public official, for interfering with the administration of justice, and for fomenting revolution."
"If my father wanted to lead a revolution, you would have been thrown out of this pueblo a long time ago."
"Then I don't think we have long to wait for him to declare his loyalty to my office," stated the Alcalde.
Again, Diego was amazed at the other man's temerity. The de la Vegas were loyal to the crown of Spain He knew his father would never give his allegiance to this petty tyrant. And he would remain behind bars until he did so. Not if he could help it, Diego swore to himself.
"Don't expect me to stand still for this," he warned Ramón before turning to walk out.
"I expect you to be a good son and not get your father hurt," the Alcalde said as he sat back down in his chair.
Pausing at the door, Diego fired back, "If you want a fight, you'll get one."
"Ah, Don Diego," said Ramón calmly, "if I have any trouble with the caballeros, I'll know you're behind it." He smiled insincerely as he added, "And there's always room in my jail for another de la Vega." The smile slid smoothly into a sneer.
Diego stormed out of the office, not trusting himself to say anymore. There had to be a way that he could get his father out of prison without the older man having to compromise his integrity.
And then there was Victoria who also was incarcerated in the Alcalde's jail. He shuddered to think what could happen to such a beautiful young lady in such a dreadful place. At least his father was there to keep her from harm, he thought thankfully.
If there was only a way he could secure the release of both of them. But how?
Diego's mind raced frantically as he stalked
across the plaza toward the tavern, intending to get something to drink
before he headed back home to the de la Vega hacienda.
Z Z Z
[parts of the following scene taken from "Zorro: The Legend Begins" written by Robert L McCullough]
Diego strolled into the tavern where he was greeted by two old friends of his father. He shook their hands before wandering over to the bar where Sergeant Mendoza was pouring drinks, collecting coins, and talking.
"I remember once when I was a young man," Mendoza began his tale, "serving under General Cordoba in the Indian campaigns. I was constantly terrified. We were after a band of renegade Indians, who had been ruthlessly terrorizing. . .the Arizona mission. They would raid a village with warning, and then they would vanish into the prairie. It was like we were chasing phantoms. They would be there one moment and then ‘whoosh'." He waved his hand in the air. "The next they'd be gone."
"Surely trained soldiers weren't frightened by such tactics?" asked Diego, keenly interested in the soldier's story.
"Oh, no, no, it wasn't the Indians we were afraid of," replied the sergeant. "We were always prepared to fight them. It was. . . It was not knowing. And when they attacked at night. . ."
"The dark frightens you, Sergeant?" Diego interrupted. An idea was beginning to form in his mind.
"Señor, at night we couldn't even see their faces," explained Mendoza.
"So it's the unknown that bothers you?"
Mendoza leaned in closer and spoke in a low voice. "A soldier is not trained to deal with the unknown. It is the unexplained, the mysterious, that promotes fear. And fear is a soldier's greatest enemy." He broke the mood by chuckling. "Of course, I have nothing to fear now. Except maybe the wine going bad."
"What about the new alcalde?" asked Diego. "You don't fear him?"
"Oh, no," blustered the sergeant. "Once things settle down, he will be a pussycat."
"Then help me get my father and Señorita Escalante out of jail," Diego requested heatedly.
"Don Diego, as soon as the threat of rebellion has ended, I'm sure the Alcalde will release them," said Mendoza reassuredly.
"But until then, what am I supposed to do?" Let them languish behind bars?" queried Diego.
"Oh, it's not so bad," replied Mendoza, a big smile on his face. "Garrison prisoners eat the same food as the soldiers." He chuckled again. "Tonight they're serving chilebeli."
Diego shook his head in disgust as he walked out of the tavern. It was obvious that the solider's loyalties were with his commandante. He was wasting his time trying to free his father and Victoria by legal means.
He was going to have to find another way
to get them released.
Z Z Z
"CADENAS DE AMOR" - CHAPTER SEVEN