While Diego and Felipe took Victoria to the tavern, Alejandro rode out to the surrounding haciendas and informed the caballeros of the impending influenza epidemic and made appeals for donations of supplies such as blankets, sheets, and rags for the tavern that was to be converted into an infirmary. Fortunately for Alejandro, the influenza had not reached many of the caballeros and their families, but it was just a matter of time before it would. Meanwhile, Dr. Hernandez had returned to his home and gathered all of his medical supplies and anything else that he could think of to take to the tavern to set up his temporary infirmary.
When they arrived at the tavern, Diego had decided to put a notice to inform the patrons that the tavern would be temporarily closed due to the influenza and would be reopened upon further notice. After he had written out the notice, he handed the parchment to Felipe and requested him to post it outside on the bulletin board.
Just as Felipe was nailing up the notice, DeSoto and Mendoza came strolling up to the tavern. DeSoto glanced over and saw Felipe taping in the last nail and walked over and began reading the notice.
"What's the meaning of this?! Influenza?! What's going on here?!" DeSoto grumbled. He reached up and ripped the parchment from the board and flashed it in front of Felipe's face. "Who told you to post this notice boy?!" he inquired disconcertedly.
Felipe shook his head and slightly shrugged his shoulders.
DeSoto looked at Felipe indignantly and shook his head and brushed him aside. "Why am I asking you? You can't even hear!" he grumbled as he flung open the door and stormed into the tavern. Mendoza quickly followed.
DeSoto's eyes scanned the tavern until he saw Victoria and Diego descending the stairs. Just as she had stepped off the last step, DeSoto immediately walked over to her and flashed the parchment before her looking at her rather incensed.
"Señorita Escalante what's the meaning of this! Why did you post this outside your tavern? Don't you know that announcements such as these have to clear my desk before they are posted?" he demanded looking at Victoria slightly perturbed.
Victoria's eyes narrowed and her face suddenly became flushed as she eyed DeSoto angrily. Just as she was about to give her retort, Diego quickly stepped up beside her and interceded.
"Excuse me Alcalde! But Señorita Escalante had nothing to do with posting that notice! In fact, it was my idea! I asked Felipe to post it!" Diego responded earnestly as he stared firmly at DeSoto.
DeSoto's eyes slightly widened and then narrowed somewhat as he looked at Diego smugly. "HA! I should have known it was you! Of all people, you should have known better than to post this without my permission!" He retorted.
Diego looked at DeSoto complaisantly. "I apologize for not clearing this with you first Alcalde. The point is Dr. Hernandez has informed us that we are in for a serious influenza epidemic and we need to use the tavern as an infirmary for all the people who are in various stages of the disease. Dr. Hernandez will be here momentarily, if you would like to wait. He will be more than happy to explain the situation to you!" Responded Diego decisively.
Suddenly DeSoto's face became flushed with anger as he glared at Diego. "What do you mean using this tavern as an infirmary! Absolutely NOT! If you start bringing all these diseased people in here, you'll be infecting the entire pueblo! I cannot allow it!" he retorted incensed.
Victory angrily broke in. "What do you mean YOU cannot allow it! It's not YOUR tavern! I own this tavern and I have given Dr. Hernandez my permission to use it as he sees fit! You can't do anything about it!" she argued as she stood glaring at DeSoto.
DeSoto's eyes narrowed as he flashed an intense look at Victoria. "I beg to differ! This may be your tavern Señorita, but this entire pueblo, including your tavern, is under my jurisdiction and I refuse to allow you to use this public facility as a hospital. Dr. Hernandez will have to find some other facility to house his patients!" DeSoto declared adamantly.
At that moment Dr. Hernandez entered the tavern carrying a crate filled with some of his supplies he had brought with him. He glanced around and saw the alcalde and Mendoza having a very heated discussion with Victoria and Diego. He sat his crate down on one the tables and walked over to DeSoto and Mendoza.
"Buenos tardes Alcalde and Sergeant Mendoza. What seems to be the problem here?" Hernandez inquired earnestly as he eyed Victoria's incensed expression.
DeSoto turned and looked at the doctor resolutely. "Buenos tardes doctor! I was just explaining to the Señorita here that she does not have the authority to turn her tavern into a hospital!" Responded Desoto informatively.
Dr. Hernandez's eyes slightly widened as he looked at the Alcalde somewhat resentfully.
"But Alcalde, I was the one who made the appeal to Señorita Escalante to loan me the use of her tavern! We need to have some facility to take care of these people when they become sick with the influenza!" Dr. Hernandez replied resolutely.
DeSoto eyed the doctor decisively. As I have told the Señorita and Don Diego, you will have to find some other facility to house your patients. This tavern and the rest of these businesses are under my jurisdiction and I cannot allow you or Señorita Escalante to run this tavern like a clinical institution. The danger of infecting the rest of the pueblo is too great! You will just have to find some other facility for your patients" He replied emphatically.
Dr. Hernandez's eyes narrowed as he looked at DeSoto contemptuously.
Mendoza briefly spoke up. "Pardon mi Alcalde, but maybe Dr. Hernandez could use the mission church for his facility." He commented somewhat sympathetically.
Victoria's eyes narrowed as she glared at Mendoza sharply. "Mendoza, you know yourself that there is not enough room in that small church to convert it into an infirmary! My tavern is much larger and there are definitely more rooms here than in the church! The more people that will be getting sick, the more rooms we will need!" she replied insightfully.
Dr. Hernandez nodded in agreement as he looked at Victoria intently. "She is correct Alcalde! We will need all the rooms we can get when more people become infected with the virus!" He paused momentarily as he looked at DeSoto reflectively. "Alcalde, it is obvious that you do not realize the gravity of the situation! This influenza is slowly becoming an epidemic! Soon we will be in desperate need of a facility to take care of all these people!" He commented vehemently.
"The doctor is right Alcalde! I am sure there is a simple way we can get around this dilemma." Diego replied earnestly.
DeSoto looked at Diego resolutely. "I've already told the doctor that he will have to find another facility Diego!" he replied decidedly.
Diego fixed a steady gaze on DeSoto. "You know Alcalde, there could be a possibility that you might contract this virus as well. It may benefit you to let Dr. Hernandez use this tavern. After all, wouldn't you feel better knowing that there was someplace that you could go, to recover from this deadly virus? And I might add that it is deadly! This virus has already claimed it's first victim! You wouldn't want to be the second would you?" Diego replied looking at DeSoto guardedly.
DeSoto's eyes widened and he inwardly gasped. "You said that this virus is deadly?" he inquired hesitantly.
"Oh yes Alcalde! In fact Felipe was sick with it several days ago. He would have died if it had not been for Dr. Hernandez! In fact, we were just fortunate that we did not get it! You know, it is very contagious!" Diego replied eyeing DeSoto and Mendoza cautiously.
Mendoza suddenly clutched his throat and gasped. "Madre de Dios! You mean this influenza is deadly and contagious?" he replied nervously.
Dr. Hernandez eyed Mendoza earnestly. "Of course! If you do not receive the proper treatment! There is definitely a chance that you could die!" he replied pointedly.
"Mi Alcalde, maybe that would be a good idea to let Dr. Hernandez have the tavern! Like he said, without the proper treatment, we could die! Mi Alcalde, I don't want to die!" Mendoza responded fearfully.
DeSoto flashed a searing look at Mendoza. "Shut up you sniveling idiot! No one is going to die!" he replied slapping him across his chest with the back of his hand. He momentarily looked at Dr. Hernandez reflectively. "Dr. Hernandez, is this influenza really as deadly as you said?" he inquired earnestly.
"Oh Sí Alcalde! As I said, without the proper treatment, you are most assuredly dead! That is why it is most imperative that we start setting up this tavern to prepare it for the oncoming patients including yourself and Sergeant Mendoza in case you become infected." Responded Dr. Hernandez emphatically.
The Alcalde rubbed his chin for a moment and cast a pensive gaze at the seasoned doctor. He finally gave a reluctant sigh and looked at him earnestly.
"All right doctor! You may use the tavern! But you must display some type of sign alerting the people that the tavern is under quarantine during this time of emergency. I will give you four days to get your infirmary set up and that includes posting your signs. Oh yes, Don Diego, you may re-post your notice. But remember in the future, all notices must come through me before they are to be posted! Is that understood?" He responded somewhat governing.
Diego looked at DeSoto somewhat sardonically and nodded. "Of course Alcalde!" Diego replied resolutely.
DeSoto cast a stern look at Diego and gave a decisive nod. "Well, see that you do! Remember, you have four days!" DeSoto replied conclusively. "Mendoza!" he commanded.
"Sí mi Alcalde!" responded Mendoza as he followed DeSoto walking toward the door.
Diego eyed DeSoto smugly as he walked away. "We wouldn't to want break any rules now would we." Diego mockingly retorted slightly under his breath.
DeSoto spun around and flashed an icy stare at Diego. "What was that De la Vega?" he inquired sharply.
Diego shook his head and cast a benign look at DeSoto. "Oh, nothing Alcade! I was just discussing with Victoria how we could utilize the tavern more effectively once it is set up." Responded Diego amicably.
Desoto's eyes slightly narrowed as he cast a petulant gaze at Diego. "I'm sure with your expertise Diego, Dr. Hernandez's infirmary will be quite effective!" he retorted sardonically.
Diego slightly chuckled and smiled as he flashed a smug look at DeSoto. "Why thank you Alcalde. That's very kind of you to say that!" he replied amiably.
DeSoto's jaws slightly tightened as he uttered a "humph!" and turned and hastily walked out!
Dr. Hernandez, Victoria, and Felipe looked at one another anxiously and released a sigh of relief and shook their heads as they watched DeSoto and Mendoza leave. Any moment, they expected DeSoto to completely loose his temper and do something irrational like throw Diego in jail just for making him mad. Victoria looked at Diego earnestly as she put her hand on her hip.
"Diego, you should be ashamed of yourself! Don't you know that with the least bit of provocation, DeSoto could have you thrown in jail? You know what a temper he has!" She replied resolutely.
Diego momentarily gazed into Victoria's dark eyes as he cast a reassuring look at her and smiled.
"Don't worry about Ignacio, Victoria, he's all bark and no bite!" Diego remarked smugly. "Besides, he's always been a bit hotheaded for as long as I can remember!" he added resolutely.
Victoria looked at Diego earnestly and sighed.
"Diego, Ignacio is not the same person that you knew when you were both in Spain! He's the Alcalde now and he's not to be taken lightly. Just be careful Diego!" She replied with a worried look on her face as she placed her hands upon his shoulders.
Diego looked affectionately into her eyes and smiled as he slowly slipped her hands from his shoulders and held them in his hands.
"Victoria, I appreciate your concern for me, but I think I can handle Ignacio. Besides, we have more important things to concentrate on right now!" Diego replied as he stood gazing warmly into her eyes and smiling.
As Victoria felt herself being drawn into his bottomless deep blue eyes, she reflected upon what those 'more important things' meant to her, such as how she felt about Diego and how he felt about her. But as she inwardly returned to reality, she knew that his only thoughts right now, were on helping Dr. Hernandez to prepare the tavern for this threatening epidemic. An epidemic that would soon fill her tavern with victims of this cruel disease.