As the de la Vegas and their guests rode to town, Diego seemed to be lost in thought. While Alejandro rode ahead, and talked with Sully and Michaela, he purposefully let his horse fall a few feet behind. Felipe pulled his horse up beside Diego, as a look of concern appeared on his face. He signed a question to Diego, asking if he was all right.
"What? Oh I'm fine Felipe, thank you." He let his voice drop, to almost a whisper. "By the way Felipe, did you notice the way Michaela was looking at me this morning?"
Felipe shook his head, and signed that he didn't understand.
"I had the strangest feeling, that she knew who I really was." Diego remarked, looking at Michaela, with mild curiosity
Felipe's eyes widened, as he looked at Diego anxiously.
Diego slightly chuckled, and shook his head.
"Oh well ... maybe it was just my imagination. Let's forget about it, for now." Replied Diego earnestly.
Felipe nodded, and sighed. He noticed the curious expression on Michaela's face, as she looked at Diego this morning. Whether or not she knew his true identity, he wasn't sure. 'Maybe, it really was just Diego's imagination.' He thought.
As they neared the pueblo, Diego noticed that DeSoto still had his soldiers posted at the entrance. Although some of the people were recovering, the threat of contagion was still there. He wished that this epidemic was completely over, so that the people of the pueblo, could return to their normal lives again. He wished that he and Victoria, could have a normal life together, as well. At least in the sense, that he envisioned what a normal life would be.
Since the epidemic, the whole town, seemed like a ghost town. The Pueblo de Los Angeles, had been under quarantine, for the past several weeks. No one had been allowed to enter the pueblo. The only time they were allowed to enter, was to visit a sick relative at the tavern, or to bring someone who was sick, to the tavern. It had been like that, forever it seemed.
Diego knew that if it had not been for Victoria, letting Doctor Hernandez use her tavern for a hospital, he could not have taken care of all the people. For that matter, Diego was even more surprised, that DeSoto, allowed her to do it. He surmised, that he had mentioned to DeSoto, that he could become sick, and would need a place to get well. 'It's amazing what the power of suggestion can do!' thought Diego, as a slight smile, crossed his lips.
After being in the midst of this epidemic, Diego felt that even Ignacio, didn't deserve such a fate. There was no doubt, that DeSoto was a tyrant. He would even devise ways, to undermine the de la Vega family. Yet, after seeing what an epidemic can do, to an entire community, Diego worriedly shook his head, at the thought of DeSoto, suffering the same fate. He was even glad, that Mendoza and his men, had been lucky enough to escape it. He was also surprised, yet thankful, that his father and Victoria, had not contracted the disease.
'Victoria ... ' his mind drifted back, to that memorable night, that he proposed to her. 'Had he really done the right thing, by asking her to marry him?' He pondered that question for a moment. Maybe, it was the threat of losing her to this epidemic, that prompted him to ask her. Or maybe, it was something as obvious, as the fact that he really loved her, and wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. Diego quickly surmised that it was definitely love!
The soldiers at the entrance, allowed them to pass. They rode their horses up to the tavern, dismounted, and tethered them, to the hitching post. As they entered the tavern, Doctor Hernandez, had just finished writing in his medical journal, about some of his patients. As he looked up, he saw the de la Vegas, Sully, and Michaela walking in.
Closing his journal, he stretched out the kinks, that had settled in his back, then rose from the unyielding bench, and walked over, to greet them.
"Buenos días, Don Alejandro, Don Diego, and Felipe. Ah, Doctor Quinn, and Señor Sully, buenos días! I am so glad you are here! As always, there is much work to be done! Some of the patients have still not yet fully recovered, but I must say, that they are definitely showing signs of improvement! In fact, the young boy and his father ... "
"Luis and his son Paco?" Diego prompted.
"Yes, Luis and Paco. They were finally well enough, to go home yesterday. I was really worried about Paco. His fever was so high when he first arrived, and he was so weak. Thank goodness, that I had enough medicine left, to give them, otherwise, I doubt that either of them, would have survived. They were both very sick, when they first arrived. After so many deaths, it made me happy, to see them pull through this terrible disease." Doctor Hernandez smiled wistfully.
Michaela put a reassuring hand on his shoulder and smiled. "You're a good doctor, Doctor Hernandez. I feel honored, to be working with such a compassionate, and devoted doctor, as yourself."
Doctor Hernandez slightly blushed, and smiled. "I too feel honored, to be working with such a devoted, and caring doctor as yourself."
"Gracias Doctor!" Replied Michaela smiling. "I guess we should get started, since there is so much to do." She added.
"You are right Señora. By the way, Doctor Quinn, I have brought a couple of my medical journals, that I ordered from Monterey, with me today. Would you care to see them?" The old doctor inquired smiling, with a hint of excitement, in his voice.
Michaela briefly glanced over at Alejandro, and smiled. He had told her about the doctor's journals, and she seemed interested, in seeing them. She was curious to see, what procedures and medicines, Doctor Hernandez used with his patients, compared to what she used, with her patients. She knew that her medical procedures, would be advanced, compared to those, of her aged associate. However, she was still interested in learning, just how far medicine had progressed, from where she was now, and where she had come from. Michaela smiled at Doctor Hernandez and nodded.
"Yes of course! I'd love to see your journals, Doctor. Thank you." She said amiably.
"Buena! I am sure, that you will find them most interesting, being a learned physician, like yourself." He stated earnestly. "Please follow me!" he gestured.
Michaela nodded and smiled.
Just as she was about to walk away, Sully reached for her hand.
"Michaela ... " he began.
Michaela turned toward him, somewhat surprised.
"Sully, what is it?" she asked earnestly.
"Michaela, I've decided that I'm going to ride out, and do some scouting around. I've been a little curious about this place, ever since we got here. At least I can get an idea, of where we are!" he stated.
Michaela looked at Sully, worriedly.
"Sully please, I wish you wouldn't ... "
Sully put his hands on her shoulders, reassuringly, as he gazed, into her eyes.
"Don't worry Michaela, I'll be careful!" he stated smiling.
"I know ... " she began anxiously. "it's just that, we're in a different place. We're not in Colorado."
Sully nodded. "You're right. We may not be in Colorado, but I'll definitely find my way, back to you! Besides, I won't be gone very long." He put his arms around her, and pressed a tender kiss to her lips, and smiled.
They looked at one another for a moment, and seemed to sense, what the other was thinking. Michaela smiled, and spoke.
"Just make sure you're back before dark!" she slightly admonished.
Sully nodded, and smiled. "You can count on it!" he stated, tenderly caressing her cheek with his hand.
As Sully was about to leave, Diego stepped up, and put his hand on Sully's shoulder.
"Excuse me Sully, but I couldn't help but overhearing. I'd be more than happy, to ride with you. I'm familiar with this territory, and I'd be glad, to show you around." he stated earnestly.
Sully shook his head. He briefly glanced around, and saw Victoria taking some soup, to a patient. He smiled, and looked Diego.
"It's really not necessary, Diego. In fact, I'd be willing to say, that I could find my way around this territory, as well as you! You forget, I was raised with the Indians. I can find my way back. Besides, I think there is a certain señorita, that may need your help, more than me!" remarked Sully, as he turned his attention to Victoria, and smiled.
Diego's eyes followed Sully's, as he caught a glimpse, of Victoria. A slight smile, crossed his lips, as he nodded.
"I suppose you're right." He sighed, as he stood warmly gazing, at Victoria. He slightly blinked, and looked at Sully with concern.
"Take precautions Sully. Certain parts of this territory, can be quite unpredictable. Appearances, can sometimes be deceiving. Just don't do anything, foolish!"
Sully patted Diego on the shoulder, and looked at him earnestly.
"Diego, I've spent most of my life, living in the wilderness, surviving off the land. To me, one wilderness, is no different, than the other. It's just in a different location. I appreciate your concern, but I will be all right." Sully contended.
Diego sighed, and nodded.
"I was merely showing concern, out of respect for your wife." He remarked.
Sully nodded. "Thank you Diego. But Michaela knows, that I don't like being cooped up, for very long. We have an understanding." He smiled. "Don't worry." He added reassuringly. "Hasta Luego!"
"Hasta luego." Replied Diego.
Sully turned, and walked out of the tavern.
Diego was still somewhat concerned, about Sully going off by himself. Yet, as he reflected upon what he had said about being raised with the Indians, and living off the land, he felt confident, that Sully could handle himself, in any situation, that arose. He felt that Sully was just as capable, of defending himself, as Zorro was. In the meantime, he thought he would take Sully's advice, and offer Victoria some help.
DeSoto had just finished filling out his usual forms, and edicts, then signed his name with his customary flourish. He made sure the ink was dry, as he placed the papers inside his ledger, closed his desk, then locked it. He thought he would pay a visit to the tavern, to make sure doctor Hernandez, was still running everything efficiently. He walked over to the mirror, gazing at himself, as he straightened his tunic, and adjusted his cravat.
When he felt satisfied with his appearance, he walked out of his office, and looked around for Mendoza. He glanced around, and noticed him, inspecting his troops.
"Mendoza!" he yelled.
Mendoza quickly snapped his head around, looked in DeSoto's direction, and sighed. He briefly returned his attention back to his men, and ordered them to remain at their posts, at the entrance of the pueblo. He gave a quick salute, then hurried off to meet his superior.
"Sí mi Alcalde!" Mendoza responded, panting out of breath, and saluting.
DeSoto shook his head, and looked at Mendoza, with disdain.
"Remind me, to start putting you back, on foot patrol, sergeant! It appears, that you're getting out of shape!" he remarked sternly.
Mendoza slightly shrugged, and sighed, as he straightened his tunic. "Sí, mi Alcalde." He replied, remorsefully. "What was it, that you wanted mi, Alcalde?" he asked, changing the subject.
DeSoto looked at him, decidedly. "It's time, we paid the good doctor a visit. We need to inspect the tavern, to make sure everything is in order." He stated resolutely.
A worried look, shadowed Mendoza's face. "Is that a good idea, mi Alcalde? I mean, there may be a chance, that you could catch the influenza, and that would be very bad!" he stated, anxiously.
Shaking his head, DeSoto looked at Mendoza, and sighed. "Well actually Mendoza, you're the one, that's going to be making the inspection. I will be there, merely as a formality. I'll be watching, to make sure that you're doing a good job. And I trust, you will do a good job!" he said sternly, turning a sharp eye, on Mendoza.
Mendoza slightly gulped, and nodded. "Sí mi Alcalde. I will do a good job!" he replied.
"Well, let's get this over with, sergeant!" commanded Ignacio, marching across the plaza, with Mendoza close behind.
Just as Victoria began sweeping the dust from the porch, she looked up, and saw DeSoto and Mendoza, headed toward the tavern.
"What are they doing, coming here?!!" she grumbled to herself. She kept sweeping, until DeSoto stepped up on the front entrance, and made a slight bow.
"Buenos días, Señorita!" DeSoto greeted, somewhat amiably.
"Buenos días, Señorita Escalante!" greeted sergeant Mendoza.
Victoria managed a slight smile, for Mendoza.
"Buenos dias, Alcalde ... Mendoza! What brings you to my tavern, this morning?" she inquired dryly.
DeSoto looked at her, somewhat arrogantly. "I have brought the sergeant over here, to make an inspection, of your tavern." He replied earnestly.
Victoria's eyes widened, as she felt her face, become flushed. "An inspection?! What for?!" her voice slightly rose, in pitch.
DeSoto held his hand up, and looked at her calmly. "Now Señorita, there is no need for you to get upset. This is strictly routine!" he explained earnestly.
Diego quickly stepped outside, after hearing the distressed tone, in Victoria's voice.
"Buenos dias, Alcalde! What's going on here?" he inquired, eyeing DeSoto steadily.
"Buenos dias, Don Diego! I was just telling Señorita Escalante, that I have brought the Sergeant here, to make an inspection of her tavern. Since she has been using it for an infirmary, I have to make sure that everything is in order! As I told the Señorita, this is strictly routine." DeSoto explained.
Victoria looked at DeSoto, harshly. "Alcalde, you can't just go in, with all those sick people in there, without doctor Hernandez's permission! It's not right!" she stated sternly
DeSoto glared back at Victoria, as he prepared to make his speech. "Señorita, may I remind you, that since I am the Alcalde of this pueblo, I have the authority, to make routine inspections on facilities, that are under my jurisdiction. And I might add, that doctor Hernandez, has no say in these inspections, and neither do you!" he stated adamantly.
Victoria looked at Diego, worriedly. "Is that true Diego?"
Diego nodded, and sighed. "I'm afraid so, Victoria. He does have the authority." He turned to DeSoto, with a stern look. "However Alcalde, I think a little common courtesy, would be in order here! At least let us give doctor Hernandez, a little notice, that you're coming in. I think, he would truly appreciate that!" stated Diego earnestly.
DeSoto looked at Diego with contempt, and released a small sigh.
"Very well Diego! You may give doctor Hernandez, your warning! Be sure to inform him, that I will be making these periodic inspections, while the epidemic, is still in effect." Stated DeSoto.
"Don't worry Alcade, I'll be sure, and warn him!" Diego replied sternly. He walked back into the tavern, and saw doctor Hernandez, and Michaela sitting at a table, going through some of the doctor's journals. He walked over to their table, and listened to the two doctors, discussing in detail, the various curative properties, of various herbal remedies, and waited, until they had finished talking.
"Excuse me doctors, pardon me for interrupting, but our Alcalde has informed me, that he will be making an inspection of the premises. He says that he intends to continue these inspections, as long as the epidemic, is going on. I thought I should come, and tell you." He commented anxiously.
Doctor Hernandez immediately stood up, looking somewhat incensed. He turned, and looked at Michaela calmly.
"Forgive me, Doctor Quinn. You must excuse me! I'll have to speak to the Alcalde about this. This is highly irregular!" he remarked rather upset.
Doctor Hernandez looked at Diego earnestly. "Diego, since when did the Alcalde, start making inspections, on the tavern? He's never done that before!" He commented, as he started toward the door.
Diego shook his head, and sighed. "Evidently it is something, that he has just put into effect!" he remarked resolutely, as he followed doctor Hernandez to the door.
"Well, we'll just see about this!" stated doctor Hernandez, heatedly.
Michaela quickly stood up, and followed Diego, and doctor Hernandez. Diego turned, and gently grasped her arm.
"Please Michaela. There's no need for you to get involved in this." He remarked, earnestly.
Michaela looked at Diego, decidedly.
"Diego, I am here to help doctor Hernandez, in anyway I can, and that includes protecting his patients!" she replied, resolutely. She turned, and followed doctor Hernandez, out the door.
Diego slightly chuckled. 'Not only is she intelligent, but spirited too!' he thought. 'It's obvious ... ' he thought. 'that Sully and I, have an appreciation for the same type of women.' Victoria was just like Michaela; strong, intelligent, independent, and spirited. And those were all the qualities, that he dearly loved about her, as well as, loving Victoria herself! He smiled to himself, and followed Michaela.
"What's the meaning of this?!" began doctor Hernandez. "Alcalde, this is really not a good time to inspect the tavern! Many of those people who are inside, are still sick! These people need their rest. They don't need any further agitation, by having you, or Mendoza coming in here, and disturbing them! Please Alcalde, you can't do this!" stated doctor Hernandez, defensively.
DeSoto looked at doctor Hernandez, sternly. "As I told Señorita Escalante, you have no say in my decision, to make this inspection. Since I am the Alcalde of this pueblo, I have the authority, to inspect these premises, at any time, I feel it necessary to do so! And I might add, being the Alcalde, I don't need your permission, doctor! Now if you'll just step aside, we will get on with this inspection, doctor!" DeSoto stated haughtily.
As he and Mendoza walked into the tavern, Michaela's eyes narrowed, as she glared at DeSoto.
"Well!" Michaela huffed. "What an arrogant, pompous ... ."
She was quickly cut off, as DeSoto turned, and flashed a stern look at her.
"Careful doctor! Or I'll have you arrested, for insulting an officer, of his Royal Majesty, the king! And that, is my final warning!" he admonished, sternly.
Victoria quickly broke in.
"Alcalde, you can't arrest her! She is an American! She cannot be subjected, to our laws!" she stated, adamantly.
DeSoto looked at Victoria, sternly. "As long as she and her husband are here, and are in my jurisdiction, they are subject to whatever laws, that I deem necessary, to serve them, Señorita, and that includes, incarceration, for insulting an officer!" He stated harshly.
Michaela and Victoria fell silent, as they flashed a heated look at DeSoto, turning and walking into the tavern. Victoria put a reassuring arm around Michaela's shoulders, and looked at her warmly.
"Don't worry Señora, hopefully this inspection, won't take long. I feel just as badly as you, but I guess, there is nothing we can do! You are right! He is arrogant, and pompous, but he is our Alcalde, and unfortunately, the only one we have, right now!" She remarked remorsefully.
Michaela's eyes softened, as she looked at Victoria, and smiled.
"Victoria ... .do you mind, if I call you Victoria? You may call me, Michaela. Gracias, for being so kind!" Replied Michaela amiably.
Victoria smiled. "Sí, you may call me Victoria ... Michaela. De nada. Let's all go inside. I will fix us something to eat, while the Alcalde and Mendoza, make their inspection." She remarked warmly.
Michaela smiled. "I'll be more than happy to help you, Victoria! I have to admit, I'm not much of a cook, but I'm very helpful, in the kitchen!" she stated earnestly.
Victoria chuckled, and smiled.
"Well, I could always use an extra hand! Besides, I have everything already prepared. You can help me serve it!" she remarked warmly.
Michaela nodded, and smiled.
Michaela and Victoria, walked back to the kitchen, to prepare the food. After they left, Diego and Doctor Hernandez, keenly observed DeSoto, eyeing Mendoza, pacing up and down the rows of beds, carefully examining every section of the tavern, he came to. Occasionally, he would stop, and jot down bits of information, in a small ledger he had, and then, continue his inspection.
Doctor Hernandez put his hand to his chin, and cast an inquisitive eye, toward DeSoto. "I wonder why DeSoto, isn't making the inspection, himself?" he inquired, as he stood eyeing DeSoto with mild curiosity.
Diego slightly chuckled. "Maybe, he doesn't want to get his hands dirty." He stated, smugly.
Doctor Hernandez chuckled. "God forbid!" he replied, sardonically.
While Mendoza continued his inspection, DeSoto walked over to Diego, and Doctor Hernandez.
"By the way Diego ... " he began. "where is Doctor Quinn's husband? I just happened to notice, that he wasn't here." he commented, curiously.
Diego looked at DeSoto, discerningly. "Señor Sully, had some personal things, he had to attend to, back at the hacienda. He informed me, that he will return, this afternoon." Replied Diego, earnestly.
"Well ... I hope bathing, is one of them!" replied DeSoto, mockingly.
Diego shot a searing look, at DeSoto. "That's not very nice, Alcalde! There's no need, to be insulting!" Diego rebuked, sternly.
"Well, you'll have to admit Diego, he doesn't exactly wear the clothes, of a caballero!
Diego glared at DeSoto, as he looked at him. "Clothes, do not necessarily, make the man, Alcalde!" he replied sternly.
DeSoto flashed a heated look at Diego, and was about to respond, when suddenly, the sound of the lancers' rifles were heard, echoing in the plaza.
"Now what!" DeSoto grumbled, as he rushed toward the door. As he glanced out, he saw the other lancers, racing out of the cuartel, gathering at the entrance of the pueblo, with their rifles aimed, and ready to fire. He turned, and looked at Mendoza.
"Mendoza, come with me!" he commanded.
Mendoza quickly raced to DeSoto's side, and followed him out the door.
Victoria and Michaela, quickly ran out of the kitchen, and looked at Diego and Doctor Hernandez, worriedly.
"What's going on Diego!" asked Victoria, anxiously.
"I'm not sure, but I think it would be a good idea, for you and Michaela to stay inside." He answered sternly. He glanced up, and saw Alejandro, walking toward him.
"What's happening out there, Diego!" he said gruffly.
"I was just getting ready, to check it out, father. Let's go!" replied Diego, heading for the door. Just then, Victoria grabbed his arm. Diego quickly turned, in surprise.
"Victoria, what's the matter!" he said, somewhat tensely.
"Be careful!" she said anxiously, as she looked into his eyes.
Diego softly put his hand to her cheek, and smiled. "Don't worry!" he said, warmly. He turned, and followed Alejandro, out the door.