[parts of the following scene taken from "Zorro: The Legend Begins" written by Robert L McCullough]
It wasn't until mid-afternoon that Diego and Felipe arrived back at the secret cave with the big black stallion they had captured. Before they had left on their horse-hunting expedition, Diego had sent Felipe out for the things they would need to take care of a horse in the cave while he had cleared out a spot to use as a stall. Diego was surprised by how soon the youth had returned with the hay, oats, tack, and grooming brushes they would need.
"Did anyone see you?" he had asked.
Felipe had shook his head and grinned. Diego was a little concerned by how much the boy had obviously enjoyed ‘borrowing' the items from the de la Vega stables.
Diego was petting the stallion's nose as Felipe used one of the currying brushes he had pilfered. "I think he has Andalusian blood," he commented as he inspected the animal. "Look at his convex nose." He stroked his hand down the horse's forehead. "His broad chest, the clean line of his legs, his long neck," he said as he pointed to each area. "They all indicate Andalusian parentage somewhere in his pedigree."
Walking along side the stallion's hindquarters, Diego ran his hand over them. "No branding marks," he observed. He came around back to the animal's head, noticing it seemed to be quivering with anticipation. "Do you think he senses the task ahead?" Diego asked Felipe. "Wants to be part of it?"
Felipe nodded as he continued brushing. Diego looked at the horse admiringly.
"What do you think we should call him?" inquired Diego. He himself was at a loss for a name.
Felipe looked over at Diego then appraisingly at the stallion. Then suddenly inspired, he used the hand he held the brush in to make a spiraling motion.
"He does run like the wind," Diego interpreted, looking back at the horse.
Felipe shook his head and repeated the spiraling motion as he blew air out of his mouth.
Diego still didn't quite catch on to what the youth was trying to tell him. "And he appears out of nowhere like a sudden storm," he guessed.
Felipe once again made the spiraling motion, this time more exaggerated, blowing air as well. Diego had to think for a moment.
"Toronado," said Diego, a little uncertainly.
Felipe nodded, an excited expression on his face.
"Toronado," Diego repeated. "We should call him Toronado. Very good." He looked over at the horse again
"Toronado," he reiterated to the horse. "What do you think of your new name, boy?"
The newly christened Toronado bobbed his head and snorted. Diego laughed as he glanced over at Felipe who was grinning broadly.
"I think he likes it," stated Diego.
Their celebration was short-lived, however, by a loud pounding on the front door of the hacienda. Diego stared over at Felipe.
"Who could that be?" he wondered out loud. Deep inside, he was fearful that it was the Alcalde's men and they were coming to arrest him. That somehow they had found out he was Zorro and were going to take him away and hang him. And any accomplices he might have, he thought as he saw the dread in Felipe's eyes as well.
Diego hurried over to the viewing hole and peered through it. He swore under his breath that he could not see the front door, only the library, the bit of the foyer adjacent to it and into the parlor. He held his breath as he saw the butler lead the Alcalde and several lancers into the parlor. His worst nightmare had just come true.
And then it got worse. "Search the premises," ordered Ramón. The soldiers nodded and took off, their muskets at the ready.
The Alcalde used the time to inspect the de la Vega hacienda. It was the first time to Diego's knowledge that the commandante had been inside his home. Diego's blood boiled as he watched the man pick up and appraise almost every knickknack in the parlor and foyer.
It wasn't long until the lancers returned. Two of the men were dragging his father, who was red-faced and very angry. "What are you doing here?" the old don demanded stridently.
"What are you doing here?" countered Ramón. "You are supposed to be locked up in my jail, not living in the lap of luxury in your magnificent hacienda." His face twisted into a sneer.
Diego's fury grew even more as he saw two more lancers leading Victoria and Zafira into the room. The soldier who was gripping his wife's arm stepped forward.
"This one says she is married to Don Diego," he declared.
"Is she now?" the Alcalde asked rhetorically. He came over and leered at Zafira. "She is quite pretty," he said as he lifted her chin with his gloved hand. "Let her go," he commanded. "She is not a part of this."
The lancer let go of Zafira, who immediately rubbed her arm where he had been holding her. "I told you so," she said childishly to the soldier.
Then Ramón turned his attention to Victoria. "Ah, Señorita Escalante," he said with an insincere sigh before tutting his tongue. "What am I to do with you?" He touched her chin as he had Zafira's.
Diego's ire boiled even closer to the surface. How dare the man touch Victoria, he thought violently. Then he realized that the Alcalde had touched Zafira the same way and it had not bothered him.
Zafira had nothing to do with the escape, he told himself, while Victoria could be in serious trouble. Deep down though, he knew he was lying but he refused to admit to himself that he actually cared more about what happened to the lovely innkeeper than he did his own wife.
Victoria glared at the Alcalde defiantly but didn't say anything. Diego could tell that she was frightened under her bold exterior.
"Since you are still quite young," began the commandante, "and therefore easily influenced by others. . ." He glanced over at Don Alejandro who was still struggling to be free from his captors. "You are hereby pardoned, Señorita."
Ramón then leaned down and put his lips close to her ear. Diego saw Victoria shudder with revulsion as she no doubt could feel the man's breath on her neck
"But be warned, Señorita," he cautioned. "Anymore of your seditious speeches and I will hang you, no matter how beautiful you are."
The Alcalde moved away from Victoria then went over and sat down on the edge of one of the antique tables that Diego's mother had brought with her from Spain. Diego seethed with rage at how disrespectfully the man was treating the treasured object.
"Get your behind off that table," growled out Don Alejandro, voicing his son's exact sentiments. Ramón just smiled evilly at the elder de la Vega and kept his bottom firmly planted.
"Do you have a warrant for this outrage?"challenged Don Alejandro.
The commandante pointed his finger at the old don. "The only warrant you're going to see is the one calling for your execution in the morning," he announced calmly.
"Execution!" his father interjected angrily. "Resisting your tyranny is no crime."
"No, but breaking from jail is a capital offense, Señor," declared Ramón. "One for which you and the peasants who aided in that effect will be hung in the morning." He waved his hand at the lancers holding the elder de la Vega. "Take him away."
The two soldiers marched Don Alejandro out of the hacienda. Ramón sat smugly for a moment before getting up and following them.
Diego slapped his hand against the cave wall. "They're arresting my father!" he shouted, not caring if anyone heard. Fortunately, Victoria and Zafira had already gone back to their rooms.
He spun around so fast that Felipe jumped back and put his arms in front of himself for protection, eyeing his mentor warily.
Diego stopped in his tracks as he realized that the boy thought he was going to hit him. Which was odd since neither he nor his father had so much as spanked him in the seven years Felipe had lived with them. Shoving that mystery aside to mull over later, he came back to the matter at hand.
"Well, someone has to stop the Alcalde!" he yelled in frustration.
Felipe nodded and then used his finger to trace the letter ‘Z' in the air. Diego immediately caught on.
"Zorro," he said with more calmness than he felt. Diego looked over at Felipe. "I need to check on Zafira and Señorita Escalante first," he told the youth. Felipe nodded again.
Diego again peeked through the viewing hole
before he hurried off, exiting the cave.
Z Z Z
Moments later, Diego had made his way down the hallway that led to the hacienda bedrooms. He knocked on his wife's door.
"Zafira," he called out. "What's going on? I thought I saw soldiers riding away." There was no response. Where on earth could she be, he wondered. He had just seen her come this way. "Zafira?" he asked as he rapped once more.
Hearing a door open behind him, Diego turned around and saw Victoria as she emerged from the guest room she had been using.
"Don Diego," she said, tears shimmering in her eyes. "It's terrible. They've arrested your father." She walked up to him and placed one of her hands on his arm. A jolt of desire shot through his body. "Don Diego, they are going to hang him in the morning."
Diego didn't have to pretend to be outraged. "What?" he asked fiercely. "On what charge?"
"Escaping from jail," explained Victoria. She looked up guilty at him. "The Alcalde pardoned me," she added, tightening her grip on his arm. "I am so sorry, Don Diego."
He saw that she was truly contrite that she was free while his father faced a death sentence.
"It's not your fault, Señorita," he said, placing his other hand on top of hers. "This alcalde is completely irrational. He could as well had you executed and set my father free."
"We have to do something to save Don Alejandro," stated Victoria, the tears threatening to spill down her cheeks. "He's been like a father to me these past few years."
Diego nodded. He had come to realize that the elder de la Vega had kept a parental eye on the daughter of his old friend, Alfonso Escalante, since the news of his death had reached Los Angeles.
"What is going on out here?" queried Zafira, opening the door of her bedroom.
Diego disentangled his arm from the lovely innkeeper's hand. "The señorita was just telling me that my father is going to hang tomorrow," he replied testily, sorely missing the comfort Victoria's touch had given him.
"Oh, that." Zafira waved her hand dismissively. "I wouldn't worry if I were you."
Diego was shocked by his spouse's cavalier attitude. "How can you say not to worry?" he asked, barely keeping his anger in check. "The man is clearly insane. If he says my father is going to hang in the morning, he means it."
"Don Alejandro is an important man in this community," declared Zafira. "Executing him would bring the wrath of the Spanish government down on this alcalde's head. No one would be that foolish."
"But Señora," began Victoria. "He is that foolish. Don Diego is right, his father is going to die. We have to do something to help him."
Zafira just stared at Victoria, an expression of distaste marring her face. She haughtily turned her head and looked up at Diego.
"I'm right," she said. "You just wait and see."
With that said, she stepped back into her room and firmly shut the door. Diego had half-expected her to stick her tongue out at them. He turn to Victoria with a look of apology.
"I don't think your wife likes me," she said unnecessarily.
"She's having a rough time," Diego responded, feeling he had to explain Zafira's actions toward the other woman. "Moving from Spain to California has been traumatic for her."
"Of course," Victoria replied charitably.
Diego smiled wryly at her. "Perhaps your masked hero will hear of this," he said at bit teasingly, "and save my father."
"Don't be surprised if he does," said Victoria fervently. "Wait until you see him in action, Don Diego. He wields a sword like no one you have ever seen before." She let her gaze grow dreamy as no doubt she was reliving Zorro's rescue of her.
Diego felt an odd sense of jealousy filling his heart. But it was absurd. He couldn't be envious of himself, could he? A glance over at the lovely señorita told him he obviously could be.
Victoria again put her hand on his arm, gaining his undivided attention. "I wonder if you could escort me back to the pueblo?" she requested.
"But doesn't the Alcalde still have your tavern under military rule?" Diego asked worriedly. "Will he allow you to stay there, do you think?"
"He'd better," said the innkeeper bitterly. "All my possessions are still there." She turned her anxious countenance up to look at him. "He can't keep my tavern. It's all I have left of my parents." She began to wipe at the tears that started streaming down her cheeks.
Diego's heart was filled with pity for the beautiful young woman. She had gone through hardships people twice her age could have never dealt with and come out as strong as she had. Zorro was definitely going to save his father and make sure that Victoria got her business back.
Glancing briefly at his wife's bedroom door, he nodded at Victoria. "Si, Señorita, I'll take you back to Los Angeles," he said, gallantly offering her his arm.
"Gracias, Don Diego," she replied with a smile as she looped her arm through his. Diego threw one more glance at Zafira's door. Once this was all over with, he was going to have a talk with her.
But he had more pressing problems at the moment, he thought as he lead Victoria to the front door. His father needed to be rescued from the Alcalde's gallows and there was only one man for the job. . .
Z Z Z
"CADENAS DE AMOR" - CHAPTER 10