Author's note:  This story takes place between the 1st and 2nd seasons of the TV series.  As keen watchers of the series may have noted, there were some cosmetic changes to the pueblo set between those two seasons and especially to the tavern.  Consider this my explanation for the differences.  This story is also a little AU and strays some from canon.

Also I am writing the character of Don Alejandro de la Vega as portrayed by Henry Darrow who took over the role from Efrem Zimbalist Jr at the beginning of the 2nd season.



     Don Alejandro and his son, Diego, were sitting at a table in the tavern owned by Victoria Escalante.  They lingered over their drinks after having eaten their fill of the beautiful innkeeper's delicious arroz con pollo.

     The elder de la Vega had been meaning to have a serious talk with his son for quite a while.  The young man had been home from Spain for nearly two years now and showed no signs of doing anything but continuing his scholarly pursuits.  Which the lad could have stay in Madrid to do, the old don thought angrily.  Alejandro had summoned Diego back to California for entirely different reasons.  He took a long sip from his lemonade before finally speaking.

    "The time has come, my son, for you to take more of the responsibility of the estate," he said with a slightly scolding tone in his voice.  "It will all be yours someday, Diego.  I'm certainly not getting any younger."

     "Father, there's plenty of time to worry about this," implored Diego with a tinge of guilt.  " I think. . ."

     "No Diego, the time is now," insisted his father.   "Time to put away your books and your studies.  Time to take up the reins of responsibility."

     "But Father. . ."

     Don Alejandro ignored Diego's protest.  "Time to find a wife and settle down," he stated as he eyed his son speculatively.   "Heavens knows what you get up to when you disappear for hours.  A wife would put an end to all that."

     Diego looked away from the elder de la Vega before rolling his eyes, an irreverent grin on his face.

     "Diego, are you listening to me?" asked Don Alejandro in exasperation.  No doubt his son was thinking about one of the many insignificant experiments that he wasted so much of his time working on.

     Victoria sauntered over to their table just then, saving Diego from having to reply.  She glanced from father to son and smiled knowingly.

     "You two are certainly having a lively discussion," she observed

     "Not really," replied Diego in a bored tone before taking a drink from his glass.   "My father was just pointing out to me my duties as a good son."

     "Again," declared Don Alejandro firmly, giving his son a faintly menacing glare

     "Well, we could use a little excitement around here" complained the innkeeper, sighing wistfully.

     "Si, it has been quiet lately," the old caballero agreed.

     "Well, I think it has been too thrilling around here," stated Diego who allowed a whining quality to creep into his voice.  "What with that Ricardo Quintana trying to kill us, and Victoria, your brother coming to visit, and Palomarez throwing us out of our hacienda and attempting to sell the pueblo to the British. . .   Well, I've certainly had enough commotion in the last few months to last the rest of my life."

     Victoria rolled her eyes.  "Yes, Diego, we all know how you like your peaceful life."

     Neither the innkeeper nor his father noticed that Diego's smile masked a pang of sadness Victoria's unwittingly hurtful comment caused him..

     "Even the Alcalde hasn't stirred things up for awhile," said Don Alejandro.   "Maybe he has decided he is no match for Zorro.  After all, Zorro outwits him and foils all his schemes."

     Victoria nodded fervently in agreement.  "You would think the Alcalde would have learned his lesson by now.  Zorro could then retire his mask  forever."  A bemused expression settled on her lovely face as she drifted off for a moment thinking , no doubt, about Zorro.

     Diego tried hard to suppress a broad grin before shaking his head.  "I wouldn't count on it, Victoria.," he said, shattering her daydream.  " I have a feeling this is just a calm before a storm."

     "Knowing the Alcalde, you could be right, Diego," Don Alejandro concurred, nodding sagely.

     Victoria sighed with disappointment at the de le Vega's prediction, then began refilling their glasses of lemonade.
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     The alcalde of Los Angeles, Luis Ramón, sat at his desk, writing furiously.  He put down his quill and looked up with an evil smile on his face.

     The smile disappeared, however, when Ramón thought of all the years he wasted in the dry, dusty little pueblo.  Well, he thought, the wicked grin returning, things were about to change.

     Rising from his chair, he then strode over to the office door, and wrenched it open.


     The stout sergeant, who had been about to enter the tavern, scurried across the plaza upon hearing his commandante's bellow.  He removed his hat as he entered the office where the Alcalde is leaning up against his desk, arms crossed over his chest, waiting impatiently

     "Si, mi Alcalde," the soldier saluted sharply.

      Ramón barely curbed his disgust of his subordinate.  "Sergeant," he stated, "I've been thinking about Señorita Escalante and her tavern. . ."

     "You, too?" interrupted Mendoza, grinning and rubbing his considerable stomach.  "I've been thinking about her frijoles and her tamales and. . ."

     The Alcalde quickly disrupted the sergeant's recitation of the tavern's menu.   "That's not what I mean, you dolt.   Think,  Mendoza."

     "Yes, sir.  About what?"

      Ramón rolled his eyes in exasperation.   Then, as if he was speaking to a small child, he asked, "Mendoza, exactly how many taverns are there in Los Angeles?"

     "Just one, mi Alcalde," Mendoza replied nervously.

     "And who owns it?"

     The sergeant still apprehensive he might say the wrong thing, answered timidly,   "Señorita Escalante, of course."

    The Alcalde turned and took several steps away from Mendoza, then pivoted back around.  One glance at the soldier's blank expression told him he was going to have to explain everything.  Again.

     "Don't you see, Sergeant?" Ramón didn't bother to keep the contempt from his voice as he attempted to get the other man to understand.   "The señorita runs the only inn in the pueblo.  It must bring in a good profit.  She is one of the few people who can pay their taxes."

     "Si, mi Alcalde," Mendoza had to agree.  He had very little trouble collecting the taxes from Señorita Escalante, only having to endure her remarks about blood-sucking leeches and such.    "But what does that have to do with you?

     "I wish to purchase the tavern from her," the Alcalde declared.   "The pittance I receive from her in taxes would be replaced by the tavern's earnings.  Of course, I would have to have someone else run the place for me.  What do you think, Sergeant?  Would you be interested?"

     Ramón smirked at the idea of killing two birds with one stone.  One, he would own a profitable, money-making enterprise and two, he would get the inept sergeant out of his hair.  It would be an ideal situation.

     "Me?  Run the tavern?" asked Mendoza incredulously.   "I am indeed interested, Alcalde."  But then a worrisome thought occurred to the soldier.   "But sir, do you think the señorita would sell her tavern to you?  You are not exactly one of her favorite people."

     "It is an opportunity I can't let pass by, Sergeant," stated Ramón imperiously.  He walked back behind his desk and sat down.  "That will be all, Sergeant."

      "Si, mi Alcalde."   Mendoza, after firing off a quick salute,  turned and marched out the door, putting his hat back on before he closed the door behind him.

     The Alcalde chuckled softly.  "Don't worry, Mendoza," he said quietly to himself.   " I know several ways to. . . persuade the señorita to do as I desire."

     He smiled evilly for a moment before beginning to shuffle papers on his desk.
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     At noon the next day, the tavern was bustling with customers.  As always, Victoria was serving them their meals with one of her beautiful smiles.  The Alcalde strode  through the door, dressed in his finest uniform.  Stopping a few paces from the doorway, he glanced around the crowded room, an expression of satisfaction on his bearded face.

     "Can I help you, Alcalde?" asked Victoria somewhat ungraciously.  She held the tray she carried against her chest, like a shield.

     "Ah, Señorita Escalante.  May I have a word with you?" Ramón inquired quite smarmily.

     Victoria was immediately suspicious as she picked up on his insincerity.   "A word?  About what?"

     The Alcalde surveyed the room again, eyeing all the customers with mock suspicion.  "In private, por favor."

     "I am extremely busy right now, Alcalde," Victoria declared a bit rudely.  "Maybe later," she added uncommittedly and began to walk away.

      Ramón stepped in front of her, blocking the innkeeper's way.  "It will only take a moment of your time, Señorita," he wheedled like a small child.  Victoria imagined he had been a very unpleasant and spoiled boy when he was younger.  And then realizing he would just keep pestering her until she heard him out, she heaved a big sigh.

      "Si, Señor.  This way," she agreed as she led him through the curtained doorway into the tavern's kitchen.

     Alicia, one of Victoria's employees, was stirring a large pot that hung over the fire.  She looked up as  Victoria and Ramón entered the room.  The innkeeper smiled falsely at the young woman.  "Alicia, I'll take over in here."  She thrust the serving tray she held at the other girl.  "Here, wait tables, por favor."

     Victoria stalled until Alicia had departed before turning around to face the Alcalde.   "Just what is this all about?" she demanded to know.

     "Don't be so alarmed, Señorita," said Ramón soothingly.  " I only wish to buy your tavern, that is all."

     "That is all?" Victoria cried in disbelief. The nerve of the man. . .  "What makes you think I would sell my tavern to you?" she queried mistrustfully.  "Are you loco?"

     The Alcalde ignored her last question before replying, "Because, Señorita, I am giving in to popular demand and I am going to build a new school."  He paused as this message registered in her mind.   "But such things are expensive, so I'm afraid that higher taxes will have to be imposed."

      Victoria was not sure if she should be pleased or outraged.  Curiosity won out.  "That still doesn't explain why you would want to buy my tavern," she said.

     "To save you from the higher taxes, Señorita," Ramón explained..  "Why, the taxes on an establishment such as this would be astronomical.  It would be for the best to sell such a burden."

     "Best for whom?" questioned Victoria archly.   "Don't worry, Alcalde, I'll be able to pay your school tax and happily for once."

     "But Señorita Escalante, you don't understand.  I. . .," he started to plead with her but stopped speaking as Felipe, wearing a happy grin, came  into the kitchen, carrying a basket full of eggs.  The smile faded from Felipe's face when he saw the Alcalde was also in the room with Victoria.

     "Get out of here," Ramón snapped irritably, leveling the adolescent a menacing glare.  "Can't you see you are interrupting a private conversation?"

     "Leave him alone," demanded Victoria, seeing the confusion on Felipe's face.   "He cannot hear us anyway."

     "Ah, yes, that's right.  He's that deaf-mute boy of the de la Vegas."   The Alcalde dismissed the boy with a wave of his hand.  Victoria went over to Felipe and put a reassuring hand on his shoulder.

     "You may empty the basket, Felipe," Victoria spoke slowly.  "But then you must leave.  Understand?"

      Felipe nodded and quickly began unloading his basket.

      Ramón ignored the boy's presence and picked up the conversation where he had left off.   "As I was saying, Señorita, you don't understand how severe these taxes will be."  He paused for emphasis, shaking his head.  "Should you fall behind in your payments, I shall have no choice but to foreclose on you.  You would be better off selling to me now."

     While the older man was speaking, Felipe finished emptying the basket and turned to leave.  He smiled apprehensively at Victoria before exiting through the curtains.  Neither tavern owner nor the Alcalde realized that Felipe had stopped abruptly on the other side of the divider and leaned his head against it, poised to listen to the rest of their discussion.

     "I will never sell this tavern," declared Victoria.  "Doing so would dishonor the memories of my parents and my grandparents."

     The commandante sneered contemptuously.  "Be that as it may, Señorita Escalante, your choices are simple," he offered once again.  "Sell me this tavern or risk losing it because of the higher taxes."   The Alcalde suddenly smiled so lasciviously it made Victoria shuddered with repulsion.  He took several steps closer before continuing.   "However, my dear, there is something that might make you reconsider your rather hasty refusal of my proposal."

     "And just what would that be, Alcalde?" queried Victoria scornfully.  "Perhaps twenty lashes from your whip until I agree to your offer?"

     "Nothing quite so violent, Señorita."  Ramón reached into his jacket and pulled out a scroll of parchment. "This," he announced dramatically, "is a letter to the colonel of your brother's regiment in Mexico City, informing him of Francisco Escalante's treasonous activities, including the aiding and abetting in the escape of the notorious outlaw, Zorro."
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