Author's note: My daughter Alex and I came up with the premise for this story the other morning as she was getting ready for school.  Hopefully you will find it as amusing as we do.

Disclaimer: This story is an amateur, not-for-profit publication produced solely for the enjoyment of other Zorro fans and is not intended to infringe upon any rights by Goodman/Rosen Productions, New World Television, Zorro Productions, the estate of Johnston McCulley or anyone else.

ZORRO AND THE KIDNAPPED KID

     "And since you refuse to pay the traveler's tax, you will receive ten lashes," announced Luis Ramone, alcalde of the pueblo de Los Angeles.  "One lash for every centavo you owe."  Grinning evilly, he uncoiled his whip.

     "But I told you, Señor," pleaded the man who was tied to the whipping post, "I was just herding my goats through town.  I only stopped to refill my canteen."

     "But stop you did," sneered the alcalde.  "So you owe the tax."

      The townspeople milled about, disliking the poor goatherder's plight, but too fearful of their commandante to speak up against his cruel punishment.  Ramone had even confiscated the man's goats, who were even now bleating their disapproval of their drover's treatment in a makeshift pen next to the cuartel.

     "Mendoza!" roared the alcalde, glancing over his shoulder.  The portly sergeant came running up to his leader.

     "Si, mi alcalde," he said with a salute.

     "Quiet those goats.  Their maa-ing is driving me mad," Ramone ordered.

     "Si, mi alcalde."  With another salute, Mendoza trotted over to the animals and began speaking soothingly to them.

     "Now where was I?" the commandante asked, an malicious smile on his face.  "Ah, yes, I was about to give you ten lashes.  Unless you have changed your mind and have decided to pay the tax."

     "I have no money," the goatherd said despondently.  "I already told you that."

     "Very well."  Ramone raised his arm as he prepared to wield his whip.  The crowd behind him grew silent.  Good, he thought, it was about time they respected his authority.  He began to move his hand forward but was stymied mid-pull.  What on earth?

     He turned around to see Zorro, his arch nemesis, holding the end of the whip in his black gloved hand, a gloating smile on his masked countenance.

     "Zorro," the alcalde hissed, yanking futilely.  "Let go."

     "I don't think so," said the man in black as he walked toward the commandante, coiling up the whip as he moved.  "I think you should untie this man and let him go on his way."

     "But he hasn't paid the traveler's tax," whinged Ramone as Zorro came closer.

     "Another thing you should let go," said the caped crusader.  "It's been a ridiculous levy since the day it was first implemented.  You just charge people at whim, it's never the same from day to day, or even hour to hour."

     "But it brings in much needed income," the alcalde explained, "since I cannot count on this rabble to pay their taxes on time."

     "As much as I would like to discuss the pueblo's revenue sources with you, Alcalde,"Zorro drawled as he drew face to face with Ramone, "more urgent matters are pressing for my attention at the moment.  Let the man and his goats go.  Now."

     "Only if he pays his tax."

     "Ten centavos, is it?"

     "Si."

     The masked man wrenched the whip from the commandante's hand, punched him in the stomach, then reached into the other man's pocket as he doubled over.  He threw the handful of coins he had found there on the ground.

     "A little more than ten centavos by my estimation," he said, grinning from ear to ear.  "Paid in full."

     Ramone straightened up, sputtering.  "But. . .but that is mine. . .my money. . ."  Any more protest was cut off as Zorro hit him in his gut again.  Spinning behind the alcalde, the man in black then kicked his rear end, propelling the other man forward, landing on his face in the dust.

     Zorro withdrew his knife and cut the ropes holding the goat herder to the posts.  "Go quickly, señor," he advised.  "And in future, it might be wiser to avoid the pueblo de Los Angeles."

     The confused young man nodded and ran over to where his goats were penned.  Unfortunately, Ramone had regained his feet, wiping the dirt from his face.

     "Stop him!" he shouted, glaring at his lancers.

     "Which one?" asked Mendoza, glancing from Zorro to the erstwhile prisoner.

     The alcalde turned to him, his cheeks beet red with anger.  "Both of them!  Stop them!"

     The masked man had followed the drover over to the temporary enclosure.  With one kick, the whole thing crashed to the ground, liberating the goats, who make the most of their freedom by running off in every direction.  The herder's dog, who had been held with the other animals, began to round them up.  But the goats proved to be elusive at first, head butting anyone in their path and kicking up their heels.

     "Mendoza!"  "Lancers!"  "Aaahhh!"  Ramone screamed the last as a large billy rammed him from behind, once again forcing him to the ground.  "Maa!" the goat said as he went off to seek his next victim.

     Zorro was fending off soldiers with his saber while also attempting to help gather the frisky creatures.  Finally, between the goat herder and the dog, the goats came together as a group and began to head out of the pueblo.

     No one was watching as one little kid, a tiny black and white fellow, instead of following the others, made his way through the open door of the alcalde's office.
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     Once the animals and their drover's escape was assured, Zorro, who had defeated the lancers who had not been taken out by the goats, marched up to Ramone.  "Let this be a lesson to you, Alcalde," he said before slashing three times at the other man's jacket.  "Adios."

     Leaving the commandante staring down at the Z now gracing his chest, the man in black whistled for his horse, hopped onto its back, and galloped out of town. He intended to make sure the goat herder and his charges got away safely, not trusting the alcalde to not retaliate against the man.  Easily catching up, Zorro reined in Toronado and he and the drover chatted as they herded the animals southward.

     Neither of the men noticed as two goats, a billy and a nanny, broke away from the rest and began trotting back to Los Angeles, even though they were bleating frantically and appeared to be looking for something.
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      The little goat liked the noise his hooves made on the hard floor of the alcalde's office.  He danced around a bit, shaking his tail happily at the clicks and clacks.  Suddenly tiring of it, he sniffed the air.  Deciding he was hungry, he began to look around for food.  The kid jumped up onto the desk and saw some white flat things atop it.  Was that food? he wondered.  Tentatively, he picked up one of them with his teeth and started chewing.  Not bad, he thought as he munched it down.  Soon, he had eaten most of the papers covering the desktop.

    Midway through a important letter from the governor of Alta California, the little fellow determined he wasn't hungry anymore and spit it out.  Looking around the office, he wondered what to do next.  There was a lot of furniture in the room; tables, bookcases, a safe, several cabinets.  With a ‘maa', the goat began to play a game as old as time, called "Don't Touch the Ground".  He hopped from the desk to the top of the safe, then over to a cabinet.  He had made it three quarters around the round when Ramone and Mendoza burst into the room, causing him to misjudge his jump and land on the floor.  He glared at the two intruders and bleated at them loudly.

     "What the. . .?"  The alcalde took a step back.  He scanned the room, hoping there weren't any more of the wretched creatures about.  That was when he noticed the missing and half eaten documents plus the various items that had been knocked over, like the decanter of wine that was now pouring its contents onto his expensive Turkish carpet.

     "Mendoza!" he roared, pointing at the offending animal.  "Get that goat!"

     "But he's such a cute little fellow," said the soft-hearted sergeant.

     The commandante was sure he could feel his blood boil at that moment.  "I don't care how cute it is!" he yelled.  "Get it out of my office, you dolt!"

     "Si," said the chastised soldier.  He approached the tiny goat who was standing as defiantly as a tiny goat could.  "Come here," Mendoza clucked, gesturing with his hand.  "Don't be scared, I won't hurt you."

     Evidently the goat decided not to believe the sergeant and darted between the stout lancer's legs, making a dash for the door.  Sadly (for the kid), the men had closed it after they had entered the building, leaving the little guy with no escape route.  With two shakes of its tiny tail, he spun around and raced back through Mendoza's limbs and leaped up onto the top of a bookcase, where it proceeded to stick out its wee little tongue at the two men.

     "Why do I have to do everything around here myself," Ramone asked rhetorically.  He strode across the room and lunged at the kid.  At precisely the same moment, the little goat jumped, landing on the alcalde's head, which it used as a launching pad for his next leap, propelling him to the top of the highest cabinet in the room.

    "Madre de Dios," muttered Mendoza in an impressed tone.  "Did you see how high it jumped?"

     "No, I did not see how high it jumped," the alcalde ground out, "as it was on TOP OF MY HEAD!"  He stalked over to his subordinate and pronounced seethingly.  "Get that devil's spawn out of my office.  NOW!"  He pointed at the tiny kid, who was at that moment feeling the effects of all the paper it had eaten earlier.

     With a loud "maa", it began to do what goats naturally do after digesting food.  Both Ramone and Mendoza watched in horror as the little fellow took care of his business.  With another "maa", it hopped down from the cabinet and headed once again for the door, forgetting that it was no longer a viable option for fleeing.

     "Get it, get it, get it,"the commandante uttered his breath.  When the tiny goat came running in the opposite direction in which it had just been going, Mendoza, moving like a much thinner, more agile man, pounced on the little fellow, pinning it to the floor.  The kid tried to wiggle away but realizing it was well and truly caught, stuck out its little tongue and bleated pitifully.

     "Lock it up in the jail," ordered Ramone.

     "In the jail?" questioned the sergeant, struggling to get to his feet whilst maintaining his grip on the goat.  "What are you going to do with it?"

     The alcalde bent down so that he was level with the little kid.  "I am quite sure that he will make a very delicious dinner."  He chuckled evilly as the tiny goat's eyes bulged with terror.
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     Later that afternoon, Diego de la Vega rode into the pueblo, tying up his mare at the hitching post in front of the tavern.  He had missed lunch time at the hacienda, not returning until it had been cleared away.  At least the goat herder and his charges had money and supplies, along with a narrow escape, thanks to Zorro.

    He was wondering if the day's special was albondigas soup when he was struck from behind, right in the middle of his calves.  Turning around, he saw two goats, who were gazing up at him with what looked like accusatory expression.  Before he could process that bizarre thought, they head butted his shins, nearly knocking him over.

     "Hey!" he said in protest, holding up his hands as they approached him once again.  "I freed you earlier today, remember?" he said in low voice, not wanting anyone to overhear what he was saying or that he was talking to goats.  "What are you doing here anyway?  The rest of your herd is miles away."

     Both animals started bleating at him in such an earnest manner that Diego could almost believe they were trying to tell him something.  Punctuating some of their maas with nudges to his legs, he became almost positive they were attempting to communicate with him.

     As he stepped up onto the porch, the goats stopped their bleating.  Glancing back at them, Diego was sure that he saw the two animals shake their heads disappointedly at him.  He must be hungrier than he thought, he told himself, if he was considering the possibility that a pair of goats urgently wanted to speak to him.

     The first person he saw upon entering the tavern was its owner, Victoria Escalante.  "Buenas tardes," he greeted the lovely innkeeper.

     "Hola, Diego," she returned.  "Are you hungry?  I have some albondigas soup left."

     "Just what I was hoping, gracias," he replied as he sat down at an empty table.  She went into the kitchen and came out moments later, carrying a bowl of soup, a spoon, and a glass of orange juice on a tray.

     After she had set his meal down in front of him, he asked casually, "Did you know there are a couple of goats outside?  They nearly knocked me down."

     "Goats?" she echoed.  "There were some goats in town earlier today."  Victoria then recounted the story of how Zorro had saved the goat herder from a flogging, never guessing that Diego had experienced it first hand.  "But the man and the goats all escaped," she said in a puzzled voice.

     "Well, I just saw two out front before I came in," declared Diego, taking a spoonful of his soup.

     "I better make sure they are not disturbing my other customers," said Victoria.  With a swirl of her skirts, she wended her way to the tavern's entrance and walked out onto the porch.  "Diego?  Come here."

     Diego wiped his lips with his napkin then retraced her path to the doorway.  Victoria was standing with her hands on her hips with an annoyed expression.  "I don't know what you are talking about," she stated.  "I don't see any goats."

     Glancing one way then the other, Diego did not spy any of the cloven-hoofed creatures either.  "They were just here a few minutes ago," he said lamely.  Victoria let out a huff of disbelief.  "They were right there."  He pointed toward the hitching rail.

     "Well, they're not there now," she said testily.  She turned and went back inside.  "Honestly, almost knocked down by non-existent goats," she muttered under her breath, just loud enough for Diego to hear.

     He was not going crazy, he told himself as he returned to this table to resume eating his lunch.  He was not.  He could feel the pain in his lower legs where the animals had rammed him.  Feeling somewhat petulant, he scooped up some of his now cool soup and stuck it into his mouth.
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     Half an hour later, Diego emerged from the tavern once again, wondering if he should head over to the newspaper office to work on the goat story for the next issue.  Just as he thought the word ‘goat', but did the two goats he had encountered appeared from around the corner of the building.

     "Where were you half an hour ago?" Diego asked as he walked off the porch and toward the animals.  "Now Victoria thinks I'm loco."

     The billy and the nanny just stared up at him for a second or so, then started again with their insistent bleating.  Diego crouched down in front of them and rubbed their noses.  "I don't know what you want me to do," he said.  "The only thing I can think of is that you want to return to the rest of your herd.  I cannot help you.  But I know someone who can."

     Rising to his full height, he made his way over to his mare.  He could not return them to their master as himself, since Zorro was the only person who knew where the herder and the other goats were now.  He would have to return later that evening so he could reunite these pair of lost goats with their owner.  Peering down at the animals from the back of Esperanza, he waved at them.  "Until tonight, little ones," he said before riding away.

     The goats just looked at each other and once again shook their heads, disappointment clearly etched on their hairy little faces.
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     "Mendoza!"

      The alcalde's bellow startled the sergeant, who had just walked into the cuartel office after eating a pile of tamales over at the tavern.  "Madre de Dios," he murmured.  "Can't a man even digest his meal in peace around here?"

     He followed the sound of a second shout of his name and entered the jail, where Ramone was pacing in front of the cell holding the baby goat.  The tiny creature was gnawing on the rough canvas of the uncomfortable cot provided for the prisoners.  By the looks of it, it had chewed most of the material then spit it back out all over the cubicle's floor.

     "Find that demon something to eat!" Ramone demanded.  "I want it nice and plump.  You should know how to fatten something up.  Something of an expert on the subject, I should say?"

     With that insult delivered, he strode out of the room.  Mendoza watched him leave, befuddled by the other man's words.  He, Jaime Mendoza, a sergeant of His Majesty's Colonial Army, had never own a pet of any kind before in his life.  He knew nothing of what to feed a goat.  Why would the alcalde assume he knew how to ‘fatten it up'?  Personally he thought the kid's fate was despicable.  How could anyone eat something that cute?  Now if it had been a big stupid cow or a fat ugly pig. . .

     "Maa!"  The little goat's bleating interrupted the good sergeant's train of thought.  Right, he needed to feed it.  It did seem hungry.  Maybe something like hay or grass or oats or something.  Smiling, Mendoza decided to raid the stables.  Too bad it could not eat tamales, he mused as he headed in their direction.  Señorita Victoria's were the best in town.
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     Much later that evening, Zorro rode into the pueblo de Los Angeles.  Dismounting at the back of the tavern, he slunk around in the shadows, hunting for the two goats.  They should not be that hard to detect, he surmised, because even though they were black and white, they were more white than black.

     It would be just his luck that they had wandered off, finding the rest of their fellow goats on their own.  But it was just as likely they were still in town somewhere, lost and scared.  With a sigh, he widened his search area.

     As he neared the cuartel, he thought he heard something that sounded like a goat's bleating.  Figuring it was worth a look, he climbed up onto a porch roof then hopped his way over to the top of the cuartel.  The sound was growing louder.  Listening intently for a moment, he pinpointed that it was coming from the jail.  Moving over to that part of the building, he opened the hatch that let him peer down inside.

     Sure enough, the bleating was coming from the cellblock.  But it wasn't the goats he was pursuing, but a tiny baby goat who was happily munching on a pile of hay.  As he stared at it, it dawned on him that this was what the two bigger goats were trying to tell him.  That this little guy was their kid and they wanted him to find it for them.  He didn't know why, but he felt very foolish at that moment.

     Within seconds, he had eased through the roof opening and had landed silently on the jail floor.  The kid glanced up at him, wagged his tail, then hopped toward the cell door.  It waited patiently as the masked man picked the lock then opened the bars.  "Maa," it said as Zorro picked it up.  It continued to bleat between licking his face, he hoped in appreciation.

     "Shhh, little fellow," the man in black cautioned.  "We don't want to wake up the big bad alcalde.  The kid just bleated louder.  And then two more goat voices were added to the chorus.  Zorro walked over to the cell window and saw that the other two goats standing outside.

    "Shhh, shhh."  He tried to calm the goat in his arms as he carried it out of the jail and into Ramone's office.  "We need to be quiet."

     "A little late for that, Zorro," drawled the alcalde as he strode into the room, holding a pistol.  "Just where do you think you're going with my dinner?"

     "I'm reuniting him with his parents," the masked man stated.  "Where he belongs."

     "I'm afraid we are going to have to agree to disagree," said Ramone, moving toward him.  Zorro took a step back, matching each of the commandante's steps forward.

     "Then I'm afraid we are going to have to disagree to agree to disagree."  The alcalde stopped to mull over the man in black's confusing assertion.  Zorro took advantage of his bewilderment and opened the office door.

     The billy and nanny goats charged inside, heading straight for Ramone.  Their combined head butt nearly leveled the man, and did cause the pistol to fly from his hand.  The animals then circled around then rammed him from behind.  The alcalde fell onto his face, groaned then went still.

     The kid leapt from Zorro's arms and trotted over to where the prone man was lying.  He climbed up onto Ramone's derriere, kneading it with his hooves before letting out a triumphant "Maa!".

    It was all that the masked man could do to keep from falling down on the floor and laughing himself silly.  But, he cautioned, he had not completed his work yet that night.  His levity would have to wait.  He scooped up the kid, beckoned the older goats and walked out of the office and to where Toronado stood waiting.
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     It was nearly dawn before Zorro dismounted from his black stallion deep inside the cave hidden under the de la Vega hacienda.  He was buttoning up his white linen shirt when Felipe appeared from the tunnel that led to the library.

     Diego quickly told the lad of the evening's events, ending his narration with a chuckle.  "So," he began, "did anything interesting happen here tonight?"

     Felipe shook his head, then stopped, gesturing out his words, smiling the whole time.

     "No," Diego said in a horrified tone.  "No.  There is no way my father is thinking about buying some goats.  It's just not possible"  He stared at the young man before continuing.  "You must be kidding."

     Felipe pointed at Diego, who then realized the pun he had just made.  He glanced again at the boy by his side who was silently laughing.  Shrugging his shoulders, he joined in, laughing loudly at the absurdity of it all.
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FIN

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