Days passed, as the Pueblo de Los Angeles, finally returned to normal. The quarantine, was finally lifted, on the pueblo and the tavern. Soon, Victoria's tavern, was bustling with people, from all around the territory, coming to dine on, her delicious cooking. Diego, Felipe, Alejandro, Michaela, and Sully, were frequent customers, coming in, and ordering, their favorite meals. Victoria of course, was thrilled, at having her tavern return to a place, of social gathering, and good food, instead of a place, of illness, and death.
Some of her regular customers, had died, during the epidemic, and she missed, seeing their faces. Fortunately, many of them had survived, and she always made it a point, to serve them, their favorite dishes, and desserts. Diego, too, was glad to see Victoria happy, doing what she loved most; cooking, and cheerfully greeting her customers. Another thing that Diego was glad of, was the fact that, DeSoto, had not issued, any new taxes. Not yet, anyway. He surmised, that he was waiting, until the caballeros and farmers, began making more money, before, he started taxing them. After all, they had just recovered, from an epidemic, and the small pueblo, was beginning, to get back to normal. For now, things were pretty quiet.
Today, was a day, like any other day. Victoria and her girls, serving the usual crowd, and the de la Vegas, Sully, and Michaela, coming, to the tavern. Everyone was enjoying the day, and of course, the food, and drinks.
As everyone at the tavern, ate their meals, a thunder of hooves, and the rattling of wheels, was heard, as the afternoon stagecoach, came rumbling up to the tavern, and came, to an abrupt halt. Diego and Alejandro, rose from their tables, and strolled outside, to see who the new arrivals, would be.
While they stood on the walkway, and watched, Sergeant Mendoza, and two lancers, came strolling over, to collect, their usual, traveler's taxes. These taxes, were placed on anyone, who visited the pueblo. If they were not paid, the visitor would go to jail, until they paid it.
"I wonder who that could be?" asked Diego, looking intently, at the stagecoach.
Alejandro, shook his head. "I have no idea." He replied.
As Juan, the coach driver, opened the door, three very distinguished-looking gentlemen, carefully stepped out, brushed off their coats, and looked around. One of the gentlemen, was rather tall, with a fair complexion, and reddish brown hair. He had rather sharp features, but a pleasant, expression. He wore a very rich-looking navy blue suit, with a white silk ruffled shirt, and a shiny black silk cravat, tied in a very stylish bow. Diego's eyes widened, as he suddenly recognized, the man. Alejandro, had a rather surprised look, on his face, as well. He and Diego, looked at one another, in amazement.
"I don't believe it! It's Don José Alphonso Infante, Escanto, the emissary from the King!" Alejandro slightly whispered.
The other man, was slightly shorter, than Don José, and a little older. He was slightly balding, with whispy gray hair, and sported a beard, and mustache. He too looked very distinguished, in his gray suit, white shirt, and black silk tie.
"Father, look. It Andres Veranos, the representative, of King Ferdinand's, Royal Constabulary, the man I wrote to. I wonder, who that other man is, with him?" Diego asked.
Alejandro shook his head. "I don't know, Diego." He replied, looking at the man, curiously.
The man was rather short, with dark hair, with a few streaks of gray running through it. He had fine features, and sported a beard, and mustache. He wore a dark brown suit, with a white ruffled shirt, and a silk cream-colored cravat, neatly tied, in a fashionable bow. He too, had a pleasant expression. Diego and Alejandro, walked up to the three men, just as Sergeant Mendoza, was about to exact, his traveler's tax.
"Buenos tardes, gentlemen! Welcome to Los Angeles! I'm sorry to tell you this, but I have come, to collect, the traveler's tax. It's not much, but our Alcalde, demands that all visitors to the pueblo, pay it." He stated, holding out his hand.
Don José, glared at Mendoza. "I beg your pardon, sir! Do you know, who I am?" he stated, haughtily.
'This should be interesting!' thought Diego, with a smug look on his face.
Mendoza shook his head. "No, Señor. I'm sorry." He stated, gazing at Don José with a vague look on his face.
Don José looked at him sternly. "I am Don José Alphonso Infante Escanto. Emissary from the king himself, and I refuse to pay any traveler's tax!" he stated, earnestly.
Mendoza's eyes widened, and he slightly sputtered. "Oh, forgive me Emissary! I didn't recognize you! By all means, you're exempt from the traveler's tax! I'm terribly, sorry." He replied, nervously.
"That's quite all right, Sergeant! I will forgive you, this time!" he stated.
Mendoza turned to the other two men, and looked at them, decidedly. "I'm afraid, that you gentlemen, will have to pay our traveler's tax, unless, you are Emissarys also." He stated, earnestly.
The two men, shook their heads. Andres looked at Mendoza, decidedly. "I am not an emissary, but I will pay, your traveler's tax, nonetheless." He stated. He reached into his pocket, took out a few pesos, and paid Mendoza.
The other man nodded, and smiled. "Sí, I will pay your traveler's tax." He too, reached into his pocket, took out the pesos, and paid Mendoza.
"Gracias, Señores! I am sorry, that you had to pay this. But, like I said, our Alcalde, gets angry, if you don't pay it!" he stated.
Andres nodded. "We understand, Sergeant." He stated, earnestly.
Mendoza nodded, then he, and the lancers, stepped into the tavern. The three men, turned to Alejandro, and Diego. Don José, spoke up.
"Buenos tardes, Don Alejandro, Don Diego! It's good to see you, again! It's been a long time!" he greeted, amiably.
"Buenos tardes, Emissary. It's good to see you again, too!" replied Alejandro, smiling. "What brings you to Los Angeles?" he asked earnestly.
Andres stepped up, and answered. "Buenos tardes, Señor de la Vega. Forgive me, but the Emissary came with me, and a friend of mine, Don Luis Francisco." He replied. "Oh yes, I believe it was your son, who wrote to me. You are Don Diego de la Vega?" he asked, turning to Diego.
"Yes, I am Don Diego de la Vega." Replied Diego.
"I am Andres Veranos." He greeted.
"Yes, I know! You were here, once before, on the trail, of the whistling bandito." Diego remarked, smiling.
Andres nodded. "Sí! That is correct! That was a very interesting case. As I recall, the infamous bandit, Zorro, helped me, solve that case! I am forever, in his debt, for helping me!" he stated earnestly.
Diego smiled. "Zorro is a very modest fellow. I'm sure he was glad to be of service." He stated, winking to his father.
"Well, you gentlemen, must be tired and hungry, from your trip. Why not come in the tavern, and get a bite to eat. I'm sure Señorita Escalante, will have some rooms available." Diego stated.
The three men nodded, in agreement. They collected their luggage, from the coach, and followed Diego, and Alejandro, into the tavern. As they walked in, Michaela, Sully and Felipe, were still sitting at their table. They walked over, and introduced the three men, to their friends, and Felipe.
"Ah Michaela, and Sully, I'd like you to meet, Emissary Don José Escanto, Señor Andres Veranos, and Don Luis Francisco. They have just arrived here in Los Angeles, from Spain." Diego remarked, smiling.
Sully stood up, and shook hands with the three men, and smiled. "Nice to meet you, gentlemen. This is my wife, Michaela." He replied, warmly.
The three men nodded and smiled. Michaela nodded, and smiled, also. "Nice to meet you." She replied, amiably.
Don José looked at Michaela, and smiled. "I am enchanted, Señora!" he took her hand, and lightly kissed it. Michaela blushed, and smiled. "Gracias!" she stated. Andres, and Luis, gave a polite bow to Michaela, and smiled. Michaela smiled back.
They found some extra chairs, and sat down. Alejandro looked at Andres earnestly. "Señor, you said my son, wrote you a letter. I'm impressed, that you came all this way, to Los Angeles, just to answer, his letter." He commented, earnestly.
Andres briefly looked around the tavern, then slightly leaned in, and looked at Alejandro.
"I had good reason, to come here, Señor. I have some valuable information for you, Don Diego, about your Alcalde, that may be helpful, to you." He said, in a slight whisper.
Diego looked at Andres, earnestly.
"Señor, since this concerns the Alcalde, maybe we should discuss this, at the hacienda. This would not be a good place to talk." He stated, quietly.
Andres looked at Diego, and nodded. "Perhaps you are right, Señor. We will find some rooms, then we will come to the hacienda." He stated.
Diego looked at him, and smiled. "That will be no problem. I know the owner, personally. I'm sure she would have some spare rooms." He stated.
Diego got up and walked over to Victoria. "Victoria, would you happen to have three rooms for those gentlemen over there?" he asked, nodding to his table.
Victoria looked at the three men, and smiled. "Of course, Diego. I would be glad, to prepare some rooms, for them. I'll get one of my girls, to prepare them. Would they like something to eat?" she asked.
Diego nodded, and smiled. "Yes, that would be nice. They just arrived from Spain, so I'm sure they are hungry." He stated.
"It will be just a moment." She replied smiling.
"Gracias, Victoria." Diego replied, warmly. He walked back to his table, and sat down.
"Well gentlemen, Victoria has some rooms available for you. Oh yes, your food will be here, in a moment." Said Deigo.
"Gracias, Don Diego. We appreciate everything you have done." Replied Don José.
"De nada!" replied Diego. "Señor Veranos, I'm glad you were able, to come here in person, just to respond, to my letter. I too am impressed." Remarked Diego.
Andres smiled. "Well, when I read in your letter, that you were in need of my help, and that you were a personal friend of Zorro's, I felt, that it was the least I could, do to help. After all, as I said, Zorro was quite beneficial, in helping me catch, the whistling bandit." He remarked, earnestly.
Diego smiled. "Well, I appreciate you coming!" he stated amiably.
Soon, Victoria brought the three men their food, and drinks. They graciously thanked her, and began eating. Victoria smiled, and nodded, then strolled off to attend to her other customers. She briefly paused, to inform Juanita, to prepare three rooms for the new arrivals. Juanita nodded, and trotted off to prepare the rooms.
By the time the three men, had finished their meals, their rooms, had been prepared. Felipe and Diego, helped them with their luggage, as they walked up to their rooms. When Diego, had made sure, that the three men were settled, in their rooms, he invited them to dinner, at the hacienda. There, he told them, they could discuss their business, in more detail. The three men nodded in agreement, then said, good-bye. Diego and Felipe, walked back downstairs, and joined Alejandro, Michaela, and Sully. Alejandro looked up and saw Diego and Felipe returning to the table.
"Well, we should be going." He stated, to Michaela and Sully. Diego nodded in agreement. "Yes, we have a lot to do, before our guests arrive tonight!" he stated. As Alejandro, Michaela and Sully rose from their table, Sully looked at Diego, slightly curious.
"Diego, those men we met, said they were from Spain. What are they doing here?" he asked.
Diego put an assuring hand on Sully's shoulder, as he looked at him earnestly.
"I've asked them to here, on some official business. They're coming to the hacienda for dinner tonight. I'll tell you more about it, later." He stated in a quiet tone.
Sully nodded in acknowledgement.
Diego looked over and saw Victoria. "Please excuse, Sully. I need to speak to Victoria, a moment. Tell father, that I'll be along shortly." He remarked.
Sully smiled, and nodded. He turned, and followed Alejandro, Felipe, and Michaela, out the door.
Victoria had just finished pouring a drink for a customer, when she saw Diego, step up to the bar.
"Buenos tardes, Diego. How are you, today?" She asked, with a warm smile.
Diego gazed into her eyes, and smiled. "Quite well, gracias! I hope this large crowd today, hasn't been too overwhelming, for you. It's amazing, how many people, showed up today. I guess, they missed your cooking." He stated warmly.
Victoria smiled. "Actually, I'm glad to see, my tavern so full of life, again. Even if there is a crowd, I've really missed, seeing all these people. By the way, I think you're right about them missing my cooking. It seems like I've spent more time in the kitchen today, than behind the bar." She chuckled.
Diego smiled. "I'm glad to see, the tavern back to normal, too. You're right. It is good to see it, so full of life, again. By the way, I wanted to invite you to dinner, at the hacienda, tonight. I've invited your three guests, you have staying at the tavern, for dinner tonight also. I think, it would be a good idea, for you to be there, too." He stated decidedly.
Victoria looked at Diego, curiously. "What do you mean, Diego? Is there something wrong?" she asked, anxiously.
Diego shook his head. "Don't worry. Everything is all right. You'll find out, when you come to dinner tonight. You will come, won't you?" he asked.
Victoria nodded. "Sí, of course, I'd love to, Diego. Thank you for asking me." She replied, smiling.
Diego sighed, and smiled. "Ah, buena! I'll pick you up at 8:00." He stated.
Victoria nodded. "That would be good. I'll be waiting." She replied, smiling.
"Adios, Victoria." Said Diego.
"Adios, Diego." Replied Victoria.
As Diego walked out of the tavern, he saw his father, Felipe, Michaela, and Sully, waiting by their horses. His father, Sully and Michaela, appeared to be in a very cheerful conversation, as he walked toward them. Diego untied the reins of his horse from the hitching post, then looked at them and smiled.
"Well, you all seem to be in a good mood, today. What's the occasion?" he asked.
Alejandro smiled. "Oh, I was just telling Michaela, and Sully, how glad I was, to see the tavern, full of customers again, instead of patients. Even Victoria, seemed happier, than a lamb, in a meadow. Of course, that could have been due, to other reasons." He remarked, with a smug look.
Diego slightly blushed. "Yes, I did notice, how happy, Victoria was today. It was obvious, that she was glad, to have her tavern, back to normal, again. She really enjoys, her work." He stated earnestly.
Alejandro, Sully and Michaela, nodded in agreement.
"Well, I suppose, we should get back, to the hacienda. I need to tell Maria, that we are having extra guests, for dinner. I'm also inviting, Victoria, as well." Stated Diego, decidedly.
Alejandro nodded in agreement. "Yes, you're right. In fact, I'm surprised, that DeSoto, hasn't been over here, to check out, our new arrivals. I guess, he's been so busy, writing up new laws, that he hasn't, had time. Now that the epidemic is over, he's probably, making up, for lost time." Alejandro chuckled, with a sarcastic tone in his voice.
Diego nodded in agreement. "You're probably right." He stated.
They mounted up, and rode to the hacienda. After they left, Mendoza, hustled his lancers out of the tavern, and ordered them back to their posts. When they returned, Mendoza walked up to DeSoto's office, and knocked on the door.
DeSoto looked up from his paperwork, and grumbled, "Come in!"
Mendoza stepped in, and shut the door. He quickly saluted, as he faced DeSoto.
DeSoto returned his salute. "At ease, Sergeant. Shouldn't you be out patrolling the pueblo?" he asked, sternly.
Mendoza looked at DeSoto, earnestly. "I came to give you, the traveler's tax, that I collected, from some new arrivals, today." He stated, placing the money, on DeSoto's desk.
"New arrivals?" DeSoto asked, curiously.
Mendoza nodded. "Sí. They arrived on the stagecoach this afternoon. One of them was, the Emissary from the king, Don José Alphonso Infante Escanto. I didn't get the other two men's names." He remarked.
DeSoto's eyes widened. "You mean, Emissary Escanto, came here to the pueblo, and I wasn't informed, in advance?" he groused, angrily.
Mendoza slightly shrugged. "I guess, he didn't want anyone to know, that he was coming. Even I, didn't recognize him, when he stepped off, the stage." Remarked Mendoza, regretfully.
DeSoto rose from his chair. He paced anxiously about the room, with his hand to his chin, in thought. He briefly paused, and looked at Mendoza.
"Why would Emissary Escanto, come to our pueblo, and not tell me! What kind of business would he have here?" he pondered, out loud.
Mendoza shook his head. "I have no idea, mi Alcalde. Maybe, he's on vacation. However, I did see him, and the two other men, talking to the de la Vegas, and their two friends." He stated.
DeSoto gazed steadily at Mendoza, with a surprised look on his face. "Escanto was talking to the de la Vegas? Hmmm. I have a feeling, that he's not just here on vacation, Mendoza! Something is going on, and I want to know what it is!" he remarked, with a firm tone.
He stood for a moment, and stroked his beard, in thought. He slightly blinked, then looked at Mendoza.
"Go to the tavern, and keep your eyes and ears open! I want to know what the Emissary is doing there. Oh, here's a few pesos. You can get something to eat, while you're there. But don't forget, what you're there for!" He ordered sternly. He reached into his pocket, and gave Mendoza some money for his meal.
Mendoza smiled, and saluted. "Muchas gracias, mi Alcalde! I won't let you down." He stated.
DeSoto looked at him sternly. "See that you don't, Sergeant. Or I'll have your stripes, for this!" he commanded.
Mendoza's eyes widened, as he looked at DeSoto, anxiously. "Sí, mi Alcalde." He saluted again. He turned and walked out the door.