Bad Times In LA

Parte Uno-B

Nancy Smith

As Diego rode into town, he saw Sergeant Mendoza at his usual post sitting outside the tavern conversing with some of the local patrons and having his usual drink. He shook his head and chuckled. 'Even with DeSoto, Mendoza still takes liberties.' Thought Diego. He hopped off his horse and tethered it to one of the posts outside the Alcalde's office. He stepped up to the door and gave a few quick raps. He heard a slight grumble that Diego thought sounded like "Come in." 'I guess he's in his usual good mood.' Thought Diego as he slowly walked in.

DeSoto looked up from his desk and sat back in his chair and flashed Diego a half smile.

"Well, Diego de la Vega as I live and breathe! What's on your mind today?" Ingancio responded smugly.

Diego inwardly brushed his remark aside and looked at him earnestly. "I've come to talk to you about Roberto Reyes." Replied Diego soberly.

DeSoto slightly leaned foreword, folding his hands. "Well…what about him?" he replied eyeing Diego with a slight smirk on his face.

Diego placed his hands on the desk and leaned toward DeSoto eyeing him steadily. "I've come to ask for Roberto's release…if you don't think that's being too unreasonable." Replied Diego as he looked at DeSoto with a determined stare.

DeSoto stared hard at Diego, and shook his head slightly chuckling as he leaned back in his chair.

"You know…you really amaze me Diego.You come waltzing in here as big as life, with your de la Vega attitude and ask me to release a poor dirt farmer who can't pay his taxes, and expect me to comply with your request." He replied smugly as he eyed Diego capriciously. "I really don't think so!" he replied tersely.

Diego slowly rose from the desk and adjusted his jacket and looked at DeSoto pretentiously.

"In my opinion the only one here with the attitude as you so aptly put it, is you Ignacio! As for my expectations, I suppose I was under the assumption that you would at least show a little compassion and allow Roberto a little time until he could pay his taxes. But I can see my assumption was quite false!" Diego replied resolutely.

Ignacio slowly stood up and walked around his desk and faced Diego, his eyes slightly narrowed.

"Compassion! Don't talk to me about compassion! I gave Roberto a three-day grace period so he could cash in his crops and pay his taxes! Three days!!!" He exclaimed flashing three fingers at Diego's face. "And do you think he came through? Absolutely not!!!" Ignacio protested.

Diego casually sat down on the desk and crossed his arms and shook his head. "Oh come on now Ignacio…" Diego was momentarily interrupted as DeSoto glared at Diego and gruffly cleared his throat.

"I would appreciate it if you wouldn't sit on my desk and if you would at least show me some respect!" DeSoto demanded harshly.

Diego calmly stood up and straightened his jacket and nodded complaisantly. "The point is Alcalde…" Diego continued eyeing DeSoto earnestly. "that there was no way Roberto could come up with that much money in just three days! You know what a bad season it was this year for crops! The farmers just barely made enough to feed their families! Surely you could have given Roberto longer than just three days! I doubt that three days would have made a difference!" Diego responded sternly, trying not to loose his temper.

DeSoto looked at Diego contentiously his eyebrows slightly furrowing. "Look here de la Vega, it's my job as Alcalde of this pueblo, to uphold the law and collect taxes! If a citizen of this pueblo does not comply with the law, and that includes not paying their taxes, then it's my job to see that they are duly reprimanded for their actions. In my opinion, three days was ample time for Reyes to come up with the money. The fact that he was negligent in his payment does not make him exempt from going to jail! I can't allow such blatant disregard for authority to go unpunished!" DeSoto contended firmly.

Diego's eyes slightly narrowed and he felt his jaw tighten as he glared at DeSoto. He stared hard at DeSoto and somewhat squared his shoulders as he stood motionless with his hands tightly clinched. He wished he had brought his sword. 'Temper Diego, he's only doing this to make you mad!' he told himself. 'He's doing a good job too. Blatant disregard my…' He momentarily blinked his eyes and inwardly shook himself from his baneful reverie. He gave a slight sigh and somewhat relaxed his stance.

"All right Alcalde…" Diego began as he reached into his pocket and pulled out the pouch containing the silver. "here, I'm prepared to pay whatever it takes to get Roberto out of jail. This should not only be enough for his bail, but also enough to pay his debt." He stepped up to the desk and emptied the bag of coins, letting them fall into a heap on the table. He pitched the bag beside the coins and turned to DeSoto and looked at him resolutely. "By the way, you can keep the bag!" He replied smirking.

DeSoto momentarily eyed the coins and carefully flattened out the pile with his fingers, seemingly counting them in his mind. He looked up at Diego somewhat disdainfully and slightly shook his head.

"You're such a bleeding-heart de la Vega! You and your father both! You're always coming to the aid of some poor peasant or poor soul that needs help! It's really disgusting the way you stick up for these people. You could never be Alcalde, you're too soft!" DeSoto replied abruptly as he slightly smirked.

Diego eyed DeSoto contemptuously. "If being like you is a main requirement for being the Alcalde, then I would rather not take the job!" Diego said tersely.

DeSoto's eyes narrowed as he glared at Diego. "Just as well, you don't have the guts for this job anyway!" he replied gruffly.

Diego looked at DeSoto resolutely. "Well Alcalde, you may have the guts as you say, but it's quite obvious that you haven't earned any respect. And in order to be respected, you have to show respect in return. If you don't change your ways Alcalde, you'll have even less respect than you do now!" concluded Diego sternly.

DeSoto's face slightly flushed as he stared at Diego with disgust. "How dare you tell me what to do! You don't have a clue about what it takes to be Alcalde! The only thing you know about is poetry, music or art. And that's a far cry from political and military issues, of which you have no grasp of whatsoever!" DeSoto retorted angrily.

Diego shook his head and sighed as he put his hand to his head. He looked at DeSoto steadily as he folded his arms across his chest.

"Look Alcalde, I didn't come here to get into a shouting match about politics or military tactics, I just came here to plead for a man's defense and offer payment for his release. If that's not enough money, then I'll be more than happy to pay the difference! Are you going to release him or not?" Diego responded eyeing DeSoto steadily.

DeSoto glanced at the coins once more and then at Diego. "All right, I'll release Reyes. You have more than enough to pay his release and debt!" DeSoto confirmed resolutely. "You know Diego…" DeSoto added. "that's very noble of you and your father to pay Reyes' debt. However, you can't afford to pay for every poor farmer that's thrown in jail for not paying their taxes." Responded DeSoto decisively as he looked at Diego earnestly.

Diego looked at DeSoto sternly. "To begin with Alcalde, nobility had nothing to with it. It was mainly out of concern for Roberto's family. Without him, his family would starve. And as far as what we can or cannot afford, I hardly think that is any of your affair! You know Alcalde it wouldn't hurt if you practiced a little diplomacy, when dealing with people! And while you're at it, add leniency to that! Maybe given some time, Roberto would have eventually paid his taxes!" Diego remarked pointedly.

DeSoto glared at Diego as he shot him a menacing look. "If you're not careful Diego, I could have you thrown in jail for civil disobedience!" replied DeSoto angrily.

Diego slightly chuckled and shook his head. "Civil disobedience?!!! I was merely stating an opinion Alcalde? I'd hardly think that the governor would consider that grounds for imprisonment!" Commented Diego unequivocally.

DeSoto eyed Diego contemptuously and turned and walked over to the door to the jail. He opened the door and yelled out to the young private standing guard.

"Private Supulvada!" DeSoto shouted.

Supulvada quickly raced out and stood at attention in front of DeSoto and saluted. "Sí mi Alcalde!" he quickly responded still standing at attention with a stern expression on his face.

DeSoto calmly returned his salute. "At ease private!" he commanded gruffly. "Release the prisoner Roberto Reyes, immediately!" he commanded.

Supulvada looked at him with curiosity. "But mi Alcalde, he hasn't paid his taxes!" he responded pointedly.

DeSoto shook his head as he lifted his eyes toward the ceiling. He looked at Supulvada sternly. "His fine has been paid, now release the prisoner!" he commanded firmly.

Supulvada shot DeSoto a surprised look and then gave a quick salute. "Sí mi Alcalde!" he responded as he quickly went to Roberto's cell and unlocked the door.

Roberto walked through the door and looked at Diego and smiled. "Buenos Dias Don Diego. Why is the Alcalde releasing me from jail?" He looked at DeSoto and then at Diego.

Diego put his hand on Roberto's shoulder and smiled. "I paid for your release Roberto, you can return to your family now!" he said reassuringly.

Roberto looked at Diego somewhat surprised and shook his head. "Don Diego, you shouldn't have! How will I ever find the money to repay you?" he replied modestly.

Diego gently grasped Roberto by the shoulders and looked warmly into his eyes and smiled.

"Don't worry about that right now! We can discuss it later. More importantly are you all right?" Diego queried looking concerned.

"Oh , Don Diego. I am fine. I am just sorry you had to bail me out!" he exclaimed somewhat sadly.

Diego looked at Roberto assuredly. "Roberto, we've known you and your family for a long time, and we are more than happy to help you out any way we can! I know what a hard time you've had, so don't worry about a thing! We'll work out something amigo!" Diego replied kindly.

Roberto looked at Diego and smiled and shook his hand. "Muchos gracious, Don Diego!! Que Dios te bendiga!" he replied gratefully.

Diego smiled and nodded. "De nada Roberto!" Diego looked at DeSoto somewhat hesitantly. "Well Alcalde?" he queried pointedly as he gave a leading nod at Roberto.

DeSoto straightened his jacket and gave a slight huff and looked at Roberto. "You're free to go Reyes! But just remember, you can't expect the de la Vegas to bail you out the next time!" DeSoto replied somewhat incensed.

Diego sighed and shook his head in disgust. 'This man really grates on my nerves!' thought Diego as he stood glaring at DeSoto hatefully. Just as he was about give his retort, Roberto spoke up.

Roberto looked at DeSoto resolutely. "I didn't expect them to bail me out this time Alcalde! In fact I don't expect anything from anyone! In that way, I am never disappointed!" he said somewhat condescendingly. He gave a nod to Diego and shot a searing glance at DeSoto.

"Good day Don Diego." Replied Roberto mildly. "Alcalde!" he replied curtly. He turned and walked out.

As Diego turned and watched Roberto leave, he felt a slight grin creep across his lips. 'Touché!' thought Diego to himself. He turned and looked at DeSoto smugly and smiled.

DeSoto gave a slight humph and shook his head, as he watched Roberto walk out the door.

"How do you like that! He didn't even say thank you! The ingrate! I guess I should expect as much from a dirt farmer!" DeSoto responded sourly.

Diego shook his head and slightly chuckled.

DeSoto shot an astonished look at Diego as he crossed his arms. "What's so funny de la Vega!"

Diego looked at DeSoto earnestly. "Really Alcalde, I mean, here you throw the poor man in jail and you expect you him thank you? For what?" Diego looked at DeSoto sincerely. "Roberto may be 'just a dirt farmer', but he has a sense of pride and frankly I admire that! If it weren't for the farmers, this area would be a wasteland! You should have some respect for these people! A lot of people depend on them for food. Look at Señorita Escalante, she would not be able to run her tavern if she could not get fresh vegetables from the farmers!" Diego stated compassionately.

DeSoto shook his head and held up his hands.

"All right, all right Diego! I'm sorry! Just spare me your lecture! You've done your good deed for the day! Now I really must be getting back to work!" he contended adamantly.

Diego slightly smirked and looked at DeSoto resolutely.

"Well, I guess I must be leaving too! Good day Ignacio!" Diego nodded amiably. As he started toward the door, DeSoto called out somewhat sternly.

"That's Alcalde to you de la Vega!" he replied firmly.

Diego mockingly slapped his hand to his forehead. "Oh! I beg your pardon…" He turned and made a dramatic bow. "Alcalde!" Diego replied sardonically. He rose from his bow, turned and walked out the door.

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