Bad Times In LA

Parte Treinta

Nancy Smith

It was getting late, but DeSoto was feeling restless, and fought the urge, to close his office, and go to bed. The thoughts of Emissary Escanto, coming to Los Angeles, without telling him, still weighed heavily upon his mind. The two men, who came with him, caused him even more distress, as well. The fact that he didn't know, who they were, compounded his worries, even more.

He had just finished signing his name, to a new edict, then set the paper, aside. He sat back in his chair, stroking his beard in thought. 'I've go to find out, who those men are, with Escanto!' he thought. He got up from his desk, and briefly stepped outside, the door. He glanced around, and saw Mendoza, and Sanchez, guarding the cuartel.

"Sergeant Mendoza, get in here!" he commanded.

Mendoza's eyes widened, as he jerked his head around, in response to DeSoto's voice. 'Madre de Dios! What now!' he thought, as he quickly trotted in to DeSoto's office.

Mendoza quickly saluted, as he stood at attention.

"Sé, mi Alcalde!" he stated.

DeSoto returned his salute. "At ease, Sergeant!"

"Gracias, mi Alcalde!" replied Mendoza, as he relaxed, his stance.

DeSoto eyed Mendoza steadily. "Well Mendoza, what did you find out, at the tavern?" he asked earnestly.

Mendoza looked at DeSoto, with a broad smile.

"Mi Alcalde, you won't believe this but, Señorita Escalante, has come up with a new recipe, for Chicken Morney, that is absolutely delicious!" he replied.

DeSoto's face became flushed, as he flashed a heated look, at Mendoza.

"You imbecile! That's not what I meant! I didn't send you over there, to the tavern, to check out, Señorita Escalante's recipes! I sent you over there, to find out, about Emissary Escanto, and those two men! Now, what did you find out?!!" he asked, with an annoyed tone to his voice.

"I'm sorry, mi Alcalde!" Mendoza stated, with a remorseful tone, to his voice.

"Well, you'll be a lot more sorry, if you don't tell me, what you found out!" DeSoto stated impatiently, as he grabbed the front, of Mendoza's shirt.

"Sí, mi Alcalde!" Mendoza said, nervously. "It was just like I said, mi Alcalde. Emissary Escanto, said that he and the other two men, are on vacation!" he stated.

DeSoto released Mendoza's shirt, and looked at him, with curiosity. "Emissary Escanto, said that?" he asked, in disbelief.

"Sí, mi Alcalde." Replied Mendoza.

"Who were those two men with him, Sergeant?" asked DeSoto, as he eyed Mendoza, intently.

"The older man was, Señor Andres Veranos, and the younger man, was Don Luis Francisco." He replied.

DeSoto put his hand to his chin, as he leaned against his desk. "Andres Veranos, and Luis Francisco." He said, with a pensive gaze. "Those names, don't sound familiar. How does the Emissary know them?" he asked, curiously.

"Emissary Escanto said, that when he was here before, he loved our pueblo so much, that he decided, to come back. This time, he brought along, his two friends, Señor Veranos, and Don Francisco." Mendoza stated, earnestly.

"His two friends?" DeSoto asked, with a surprised look.

"That's what he said, mi Alcalde." Replied Mendoza, resolutely. Mendoza's eyes suddenly widened, as a discerning look appeared on his face.

"Mi Alcalde, I just remembered, something." He stated smiling.

DeSoto looked at Mendoza, smugly. "Well, that's new and different, Sergeant." He remarked with a cynical tone to his voice.

Mendoza smiled. "Gracias, mi Alcalde."

DeSoto glared at Mendoza. "Well, get on with it, Sergeant!" he stated, impatiently.

"Sí, mi Alcalde. I just remembered, who the older man, with Emissary Escanto, and Don Francisco, is!" he stated, decidedly as he smiled.

"Well?" asked DeSoto, eyeing Mendoza, attentively.

"Señor Andres Veranos, was here once before. He was the one, who arrested, our former Alcalde's, cousin." He stated.

"Andres Veranos, arrested Luis Ramon's cousin? What for?" DeSoto asked, as he looked at Mendoza, intently.

Mendoza nodded. "! He is a representative, of King Ferdinand's, Royal Constabulary. He arrested Alcalde Ramon's cousin, because she was the Whistling Bandit!" replied Mendoza.

"The Whistling Bandit?" asked DeSoto, with an inquisitive look.

"Sí, mi Alcalde. She, Señor Veranos, and a musician, came to our pueblo, a few years ago. All of a sudden, people in the pueblo, started missing, their valuables. Even Don Alejandro, and Señorita Escalante, were robbed!" Mendoza replied, shaking his head, sympathetically.

DeSoto sneered. "Ha! It was probably, that outlaw Zorro, taking their valuables! I wouldn't put it past him!" he grumbled.

Mendoza shook his head. "Oh no, Alcalde. On the contrary, it was Zorro, who was beneficial, in helping Señor Veranos, bring Alcalde Ramon's cousin, to justice! She was the one, who was robbing everyone! She always whistled a tune, while she was robbing people. That's how she got her name, The Whistling Bandit!" he stated, earnestly, as he smiled.

DeSoto shook his head. "Ha! They were probably in league, with one another! Then he double crossed her, and turned her in, just to make himself look good, in front of everyone!" he stated, with a convicting tone.

Mendoza shook his head. "That's not true, Alcalde! Zorro, was also responsible, for returning, everyone's valuables! In fact, Señor Veranos, remarked that he could use a man like Zorro, back in Spain!" he stated, earnestly.

DeSoto slightly rolled his eyes, and shook his head.

"It's obvious, that Veranos, doesn't know Zorro, as well as, I do!" he scoffed.

Mendoza shook his head, and slightly shrugged.

"That still doesn't explain, why a representative, of King Ferdinand's, Royal Constabulary, is doing here, with Emissary Escanto!" he stated, as he looked at Mendoza, with a pensive gaze. "Not only that, but what would Escanto, Veranos, and Francisco, be doing, visiting, with the de la Vegas! For some reason, I just don't believe, that they are here, on vacation! Something, is not right, Sergeant!" he stated resolutely.

Mendoza looked at DeSoto, decidedly. "Mi Alcalde, maybe they really are here, on vacation. Besides, Don Alejandro, is a very influential, and outstanding member, of this community. Maybe that's why, Escanto, and his friends, are visiting, with the de la Vegas." He surmised.

DeSoto pulled out his watch, and glanced at the hour.

"Well Sergeant, it's getting late! Tomorrow, I want you and Corporal Sepulveda to keep your eyes on our three visitors. I know they're up to something!" he stated, with a stern look.

"Sí, mi Alcalde!" replied Mendoza, saluting.

"Dismissed, Sergeant!" commanded DeSoto, returning Mendoza's salute.

"Gracias, mi Alcalde! Buenas noches!" stated Mendoza.

"Buenas noches, Sergeant." Replied DeSoto.

Mendoza turned, and walked out the door.

DeSoto walked over, and locked his desk. He blew out his lamp in the office, and strolled off to bed. 'Hopefully tomorrow' he thought, 'I'll get to the bottom of this!'

Escanto, Veranos, and Carroga, had returned to the tavern, for the evening. They had graciously thanked Don Alejandro, and Don Diego, for inviting them, for dinner. Don Carroga, thanked Alejandro generously, for patiently listening, to his dilemma. Alejandro nodded, in assurance, and smiled. Since the hour was so late, Diego, had invited Victoria, to stay at the hacienda, for the night, at which she graciously, accepted.

It had been an unusual evening, with the exposure, of Don Francisco's real identity, and Don Carroga, telling them, that he was the real, Alcalde.

As Alejandro, Sully, and Michaela, sat in the garden, and discussed the evening's events, Diego, stood quietly by the fireplace, gazing at the flames, as they flickered, about the burning logs. His mind too, was on Don Carroga, and also on Veranos, and Escanto. He knew that he had an ally, in Veranos. After all, it was Zorro, who had helped Veranos, capture, The Whistling Bandit. However, he wasn't quite sure, about Emissary Escanto. He had to think, of some way, to convince Escanto, of Zorro's good deeds. Hopefully, between Veranos, and Escanto, they would pardon Zorro.

He placed his hand upon the mantle, and slightly leaned against it, pondering his thoughts, as he gazed into the fireplace. He was so deep in thought, that he didn't hear Victoria, walking into the room. As she walked up beside him, she rested her hand, on his back, and gently rubbed the tensed muscles, between his shoulders. Diego, slightly blinked, as he felt the tightness, in his back, subside. He slowly slid his hand, from the mantle, and gazed warmly, into Victoria's eyes. He looked back at the fireplace, and sighed. Victoria gazed anxiously, at Diego.

"What's wrong, Diego?" she asked, looking at him with deep concern.

Diego shook his head. "It's nothing, really. I was just thinking." He looked at her warmly, with a slight smile.

"Diego, it's obvious, that you had something, on your mind. You didn't even hear, me walk in." she remarked, earnestly.

Diego took her hand, and lightly kissed it.

"Please forgive me, Victoria." He replied, regretfully. "I guess, I am, a bit concerned, about what happened, tonight. I had a feeling, that Veranos would show up, but I had no idea, that Escanto, and Carroga, would come with him." he stated, with an urgent look.

"Do you think, that Don Carroga, really is our Alcalde, Diego?" asked Victoria, curiously.

Diego nodded. "Yes, I do. The fact that he came, with the Emissary, and Veranos, is clearly, proof enough. The thing that puzzles me, though, is why he came here, under an assumed name. He said it was for his safety, and other reasons." He briefly paused, as he put his hand to his chin, and gazed thoughtfully, at the fire. He looked up at Victoria.

"Unless, ... he was worried, that DeSoto would recognize him, and try to kill him." he stated, with a decided look.

Victoria looked a Diego worriedly. "Diego, do you really think that DeSoto would do such a thing?" she asked, with an anxious tone.

Diego shook his head. "DeSoto, wouldn't be that, foolish! No Victoria. I think he would be more likely, to have someone do it for him, and then say, it was an accident." He stated, decidedly.

"So you think, that Carroga is in danger?" she asked worriedly.

Diego shook his head. "As long as DeSoto, doesn't know who he is, I think he's safe, for the time being. Which reminds me ... " he trailed.

"What is it, Diego?" asked Victoria.

A solemn look, mirrored Diego's face, as he gazed, into her eyes.

"I think Zorro, needs to have a talk, with Señor Veranos, tonight." He stated, with an earnest look.

An anxious looked shadowed Victoria's face.

"What about the lancers, Diego? The Alcalde always has them watching out for you." She remarked, worriedly.

Diego looked at Victoria, warmly. "It works both ways, Victoria. Besides, I have a feeling, that DeSoto's mind, is not on Zorro, at the moment. Don't worry, I'll be careful. Tell father, and the others, that I've gone to bed. I won't be gone long." He stated.

Victoria gave Diego, a discerning look. "Diego, I thought you told Alejandro ... "

Diego nodded. "Yes, he knows. But Sully, and Michaela, don't. You, father, and Felipe, are the only ones, who know. I think that we should leave it at that, don't you?" he smiled.

Victoria slightly blushed. "I almost forgot. I'm sorry, Diego." She replied, compassionately.

Diego gazed at Victoria, with a wry grin.

"Well, I'll forgive you, this time." He chuckled. He bent over and pressed a tender kiss on her lips, and smiled.

Victoria reached up, and tenderly caressed his cheek, as she gazed into his eyes, and sighed.

"Good luck, Diego. I hope Señor Veranos, can help." She stated, earnestly.

"With you by my side, querida, I can have nothing but, good luck. Besides, of the three men, Veranos is Zorro's only ally." He remarked.

A look of recognition, quickly flashed in Victoria's eyes.

"You're right, Diego. After all, you did help him capture, The Whistling Bandit. He even returned the favor, by keeping you, from being arrested, by Ramon." She stated, resolutely.

Diego nodded. "Yes. If I can just get Veranos, to convince Escantos, of Zorro's good deeds, then there may be a possibility, that I'll get a pardon, out of this, as well." He stated, smiling.

Victoria smiled. "Not only will we have a good Alcalde, but Zorro will be free, Diego." She remarked. She put her arms around his waist, and pressed herself against him, in a warm hug.

"Be careful, Diego!" she said, anxiously.

Diego wrapped his arms around her, and held her close.

"I promise!" he replied, tenderly.

When they parted, Diego smiled, then walked over and depressed the hidden panel, and disappeared through the fireplace door.

Victoria watched in amazement, as the door slowly opened, then closed behind him.

'So, that's how he does it! I must find out, what's behind, that door!' she thought. 'But not tonight.'

As she turned around, she happened to see, Alejandro, Felipe, Sully, and Michaela, walking into the library. Alejandro looked at Victoria, curiously.

"Victoria, where's Diego?" he asked.

Victoria smiled. "He said, that he was feeling, a bit tired, so he went, to bed." She stated, with a slight wink to Alejandro.

Alejandro chuckled. "That sounds like, Diego!" He shook his head.

Felipe knew better. He smiled, and flashed a quick wink, at Victoria.

Victoria returned his smile.

As Diego and Toronado, rode to town, Diego hoped that Veranos, still remembered, Zorro's assistance, in capturing, The Whistling Bandit. He also hoped, that this would go in his favor, in pardoning Zorro. 'I guess, I'll cross that bridge, when I get to it.' He thought.

As he neared the pueblo, he noticed that it was very quiet. 'A rather unsettling quietness.' Thought Diego.

As he neared the entrance of the pueblo, he decided to take the back way instead. He thought that if the lancers were out patrolling the grounds, this late at night, they would be in the plaza, and not in the back.

"Let's just hope, I'm right, Toronado." He said softly, as he gave Toronado a gentle pat on the neck.

He trotted Toronado to the back of the tavern, and reined him in, beside a back wall. He took out his whip, stood up on the saddle, and wrapped the long leather braid, around a pole, that jutted out, from the wall. He quickly climbed up the whip, and swung himself, over to the balcony. He gave a snap of the whip, as it slipped from the pole, then, he quickly gathered it.

'I hope I remember, which room, Veranos is in.' he thought. He quietly, walked across the balcony, until he came to a window, that was slightly, opened.

'Well, I won't be needing my knife, will I?' he smiled. He carefully opened the window, and quietly crept in. As he walked over to the bed, he gave a quiet sigh of relief, as he recognized the man in bed.

'Ah, Veranos! Gracias Dios!' thought Diego. He eased his sword, from its scabbard, and lightly tapped Andres, on the shoulder.

Andres slowly rolled over on his back, and rubbed his eyes. As he opened his eyes, he suddenly felt the tip of a sword, pressed carefully, against his chest. Zorro put his finger to his lips.

"Shhh! Not a word, Señor!" said Zorro, his eyes peering steadily into Andres' eyes.

Andres shook his head, as he gazed, at this mysterious intruder.

"Buenas noches, Señor! I am, Zorro!" he greeted softly, but firmly. "If you promise not to call out, I'll remove, my sword." He remarked, with a reassuring tone.

Andres quickly nodded.

Zorro removed his sword, then returned it to its scabbard.

Andres sat up in bed, and looked at Zorro in amazement.

"Zorro! What are you doing here?!" he asked.

Zorro smiled. "Ah, so you remember, who I am." He replied.

Andres nodded. "Oh ! I could never forget, someone like you, Zorro! After all, you were the one who helped me apprehend The Whistling Bandit! For that, I will be truly, grateful!" he stated, smiling. "But what are you doing, in my bedroom, at this hour of the night?" he asked curiously.

Zorro walked over to the window, and slightly leaned, against the frame.

"Sorry to disturb you, at such a late hour, Señor. I had something important, that I needed to talk to you, about. I thought this would be, a good time, to discuss it. As you remember, our former Alcalde, was not too fond of me. And our present Alcalde, share the same sentiment. For some reason, Alcalde Ramon, was obsessed with the idea, of seeing me hang. And DeSoto, is even more obsessed than ever!" Zorro stated earnestly.

Andres nodded. "Yes, I noticed, that when I arrived in town, there was a bounty, worth six thousand pesos, on your head. You're very popular with the authorities, Zorro." He slightly chuckled.

Zorro nodded, with a wry smile. "Yes, well ... that's what I wanted to talk to you, about." He said, folding his arms, across his chest.

Andres looked at him curiously. "You mean, your bounty?" he asked.

Zorro nodded. "! If I could bring you proof, that all those charges against me, are false, would there be a chance, that I would be pardoned?" he asked, eyeing Veranos, intently.

Andres gazed at Zorro, thoughtfully. "Señor Zorro, the fact that you helped, me capture a dangerous criminal, is all the proof, that I need." He stated, earnestly.

Zorro looked at Andres acutely. "But Señor, would your proof, be enough, to convince Emissary Escanto?" he asked, earnestly.

Andres looked at Zorro compassionately.

"Señor Zorro, I have a confession, to make." He stated, resolutely.

Zorro unfolded his arms, and walked over to the foot of Andres bed. He looked at him with mild astonishment, and smiled.

"Well Señor, I may not be a priest, but I'm always willing to listen to a confession." He chuckled.

Andres smiled. "As you say Señor Zorro, you may not be a priest, but from what I've heard, you are far from being, a criminal!" he stated, earnestly.

Diego felt a lightness in his heart, as Andres' words echoed in his mind. He slightly blinked.

"I don't understand, Señor." He stated, shaking his head, with an uncertain look in his eyes.

Andres looked at Zorro resolutely.

"You see Zorro, ever since you helped, me capture that bandit, I've been following your 'career' very closely. I guess it's just the detective in me." He chuckled. He continued. "Anyway, to rephrase an old saying, the news of your criminal exploits, have been greatly exaggerated. I must say, however, that your methods, of obtaining justice, are a bit, unconventional for my tastes. However, the results, far outweigh, the methods! From what I have found, in my investigations, you have done a lot of good, for these people, Señor. I'm only sorry, that you have had to endure, the wrath of your former Alcalde, and now DeSoto, for so long. But I will speak to Emissary Escanto, in the morning. I'm sure, that we can come to, an agreement." He stated, with a resolute look.

Diego smiled. "Gracias, Señor! I am forever, in your debt." He made a slight bow.

"De nada!" replied Andres, amiably.

Diego's smile, suddenly faded. "What about Alcalde DeSoto? I have a feeling, that he won't be so agreeable, to this pardon of mine." He stated, with a decided tone.

Andres looked at Zorro earnestly. "You can rest assure, Zorro, that Emissary Escanto and I, have other plans, for Ignacio DeSoto!" he stated, as he nodded decidedly. He briefly gave Zorro a curious look.

"By the way Señor Zorro, how did you know, that I and Emissary Escanto, were here, in the pueblo?" he asked, stroking his chin, thoughtfully.

Zorro smiled, and slightly shrugged. "Ah Señor, it's a small pueblo, and news travels fast! I have ways, of getting information, when I need it."

Andres nodded, and smiled. "I see! You're a very clever man, Señor!" he remarked.

"Gracias, Señor!" replied Zorro, with a sly smile.

"Well Señor Zorro, if I am to start working, on this pardon of yours, I need to get, my rest." Andres stated, smiling.

Diego nodded, and smiled.

", of course, Señor Veranos. I apologize, for keeping you up, so late." Replied Zorro, compassionately.

Andres shook his head. "No need to apologize, Señor. It was very good, to see you, again. In fact, I think I have a plan, for getting this pardon of yours, out in the open. By the way, do you know, Don Diego de la Vega?" he asked.

Zorro nodded. ", I know him."

"Tonight, at his hacienda, we uncovered some valuable information, about Alcalde DeSoto, that may be valuable, to you as well. There's also someone else, you should meet, as well. Is there someplace where we can meet tomorrow night?" Andres asked.

Zorro nodded. "Yes, of course. The padre, is a good friend of mine. I'm sure, that he would let us meet, in the church sacristy." Stated Zorro, earnestly.

Andres nodded. "Excellent! How about ten o' clock, tomorrow night?" he asked.

Zorro nodded. "I will be there, Señor! Buenas noches!"

"Buenas noches, Zorro!" replied Andres, smiling.

Zorro walked over to the window, gave his traditional salute, then stepped out the window, and disappeared into the night.

Andres got up from his bed, walked over to the window, and closed it. He smiled, and shook his head, as he climbed back into bed, and went to sleep.

'What do you know ... ' he thought, 'my first day, returning to Los Angeles, and I see, Zorro!"

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