The early morning light, etched its way, into Ignacio's bedroom, bathing his bed, in a warm bright light, as the sun, made its presence known, in the winsome little pueblo of Los Angeles.
Ignacio stretched, and yawned, as he rose, from his bed. As he slowly stood up, he briefly winced in pain, at the twinge, in his back, as he quickly covered it, with his hand, and rubbed it. He released a long sigh, as he slowly trudged over, to his nightstand, and gaped, at his weary, grizzled reflection, in the mirror. He ran his hand, over the sagging, wrinkled features, of his face, and slightly groaned.
"That accursed bandit, Zorro, has aged me, beyond my years! I would have been, out of this miserable pueblo, a long time ago, if it weren't, for him!" he grumbled, to the haggard face, in the mirror. He released another sigh, as he began to dress for another 'arduous' day.
Ignacio, stepped over, to his dressing mirror, and eyed the meticulously, well-dressed, uniformed figure, in the mirror. He carefully inspected his cravat, making a final adjustment, then strolled out of his bedroom, and into his office.
After quickly signing, and stamping, his signature, and seal, on some documents, that were laying on his desk, Ignacio, rose from his chair, then strolled, out of his office.
Don Xavier Carroga, rose from his bed, and ambled over, to his nightstand. He gazed, at the bearded face, in the mirror, and smiled.
"Well, my bearded friend, today you are no more! Today, you Don Xavier Miguel Francisco Carroga, soon to be Alcalde of the pueblo de Los Angeles." he stated in a decided tone, as he stroked his beard, for the last time.
After filling, his washbasin, with water, he lathered his face, then picked up his razor, and slowly, but carefully, began revealing, the real face, behind the beard. Carroga dried his face, and smiled, as he stroked the smooth features, of his face, that were once hidden, behind his disguise. He walked over, to his closet, and chose, his finest suit, shirt, and cravat, then quickly dressed, for the momentous day, ahead. He had a feeling, that it would be, just that.
Alejandro, Felipe, Sully, and Michaela, had just arrived in the pueblo. They had decided to have breakfast at the tavern, and quickly rode to town, before the tavern became crowded. They trotted their horses over to the tavern, tethered them to the post, then dismounted. Diego had informed, Alejandro, Michaela, and Sully, that he would come, later. He told them that he had some business, to attend to.
After everyone had left, Diego ate his breakfast, then headed, for the library. He pressed the secret panel, under the mantle, of the fireplace, and waited, until the hidden door, slowly opened. He ducked through the door, then made his way, down the stone staircase, that led, to the cave. He quickly dressed, as Zorro, then readied Toronado, for the ride, to town. Toronado, gave a slight nicker, as Diego mounted him, then headed him, out of, the cave. Diego gave Toronado, a quick pat on the neck, as they rode across, the de la Vega range. An anxious feeling came over him, as he rode toward the pueblo. He thought, if there was going to be, trouble, then he definitely, wanted to be there.
Carroga, Veranos, and Escanto, sauntered over, to one of the empty tables, and sat down. They promptly, gave their order, to one of the waitresses, then waited patiently, as she ambled off, to the kitchen. Carroga, glanced over, and saw Alejandro, Felipe, and their friends, sitting at a table, having a pleasant, conversation, as they too, waited for their order.
As Alejandro diverted his attention from the conversation, he happened to see Carroga, looking in his direction. He gave a nod, in acknowledgement, and smiled. Carroga, nodded, and smiled back. He looked thoughtfully, at Alejandro, and his friends, and noticed, that Diego, was strangely, absent. He slightly nodded, as he happened to recall, what Alejandro had said, one day, about Diego, not being, a 'morning person.' 'Maybe ... ' he thought, 'Diego, had decided, to sleep late, today.' He shook his head, and smiled, as he returned, his attention, to his companions.
Emissary Escanto, was about to expound, on some political issue, when Carroga, glanced over, Escanto's shoulder, and saw Ignacio, sitting at a table, near the bar. He felt a surge, of anger, welling inside him, as he slightly, narrowed his eyes, and glared, at DeSoto. Escanto, and Veranos, looked at Carroga, with concern. Veranos, put his hand, on Carroga's arm, in assurance.
"Don Xavier, as Zorro said, DeSoto, is not worth, dying for! Zorro, and I, will handle this!" he stated earnestly.
Carroga nodded. "I suppose, we should let him have, his 'last meal,' before, we arrest him." he replied, in a bitter tone. He sat back in his chair, and sighed, releasing the tension, from his body. As the waitress, brought their orders, Carroga, held a steady gaze, on DeSoto.
Soon everyone was served. Their meal, as usual, was delicious. Victoria, and her girls, scurried about the tavern, bringing extra drinks, and food, to all, the customers. The morning rush, finally subsided, as some of their patrons, finished, their meals.
Carroga, gently pushed his plate aside, then finished, the rest, of his drink. He slightly dabbed his mouth, with the cloth napkin, and gazed at DeSoto, with a wry smile. He slightly blinked, as he briefly looked, at Veranos, and Escanto.
"Excuse me, gentlemen. I think I'll go pay, my respects, to our esteemed, Alcalde." he remarked.
"Don Xavier, be careful." remarked Escanto, cautiously.
Carroga nodded, and smiled. He rose from his seat, and walked over, to DeSoto's, table.
DeSoto, was just finishing, his coffee, when he looked up, and saw, Carroga, standing, before him. He gently dabbed his mouth, with his napkin, and looked at him, in surprise.
"Ah, buenos días, Don Luis!" he greeted. "I must say, you look ... different." he remarked, in a dubious tone.
Carroga, looked at DeSoto, smugly. "Buenos dias, Alcalde!" he replied, with a sharp emphasis on Alcalde. "In what way, do I look different, Señor?" he asked, with discerning look.
DeSoto, studied Carroga's face, for a moment, then nodded.
"You've changed, your appearance, Señor." he remarked, as he stroked his beard, in thought.
Carroga nodded in agreement, and smiled. "Well Alcalde, as they say, appearances, can be deceiving." he stated, complacently.
DeSoto slightly nodded. "Yes, I suppose, you're right." he replied, in an examining tone. he slightly blinked, then shook his head. He looked at Carroga, and smiled. "Anyway, I hope, that you are enjoying, your stay here, in Los Angeles." He remarked.
Carroga nodded. "Oh yes! In fact, I'm enjoying it so well, that I plan, to stay here, permanently!" he remarked, smiling.
DeSoto nodded. "Ah, I'm glad to hear that. I'm sure, that the caballeros, will gladly, welcome you, into, their community." he stated, smiling.
Carroga nodded. "Oh, I'm sure they will! I also, have a feeling, that the people, of this pueblo, will welcome me, as well." he stated, with a discerning look.
DeSoto, looked at Carroga, with curiosity, as he slowly, rose from, his seat.
"Forgive me, Don Luis. It appears, that I am missing, something here." he stated, in confused tone.
Carroga, eyed DeSoto, with a perceptive, look.
"Oh, ... haven't you heard, Señor?" he inquired, with a smug tone to his voice.
DeSoto shook his head. "Heard what, Señor? You seem to have me, at a disadvantage." he remarked, even more confused.
Carroga looked at him smugly. "Well Señor, it looks as if, the tables, have turned. As you say, now, I am the one, who has you, at a disadvantage!" he stated.
DeSoto looked at him, earnestly. "Forgive me again, Señor, but again, you still have me at a disadvantage." he remarked, somewhat perplexed. Carroga nodded, and smiled. "Well Señor, allow me to enlighten you! As of today, Los Angeles is getting a new Alcalde!" he stated, decidedly.
Suddenly, the tavern fell silent. Everyone, turned their eyes, on DeSoto, and Carroga, as they gazed at them, intently.
DeSoto, looked at Carroga, with surprise, and shook his head.
"Don Luis, I don't understand. I am the Alcalde, of this pueblo. I have been, for quite some time. I was not informed, of any, changes." he stated, earnestly.
"If you have any doubts, Señor, feel free, to ask my, associates." he stated, resolutely.
Veranos, and Escanto, slowly rose, from their seats, as they eyed DeSoto, with a discerning look.
Suddenly DeSoto felt a chill run down his back, as he looked at the two men.
"Emissary, what is he talking about?" he asked, in an anxious tone.
Before Escanto could answer, an arresting voice, resounded, from the balcony, of the tavern.
"Well Alcalde, it looks as if, you're about to be, replaced!" Zorro remarked, in a mocking tone.
Suddenly, everyone in the tavern, quickly shifted their attention, to Zorro. There were a few echoes, of "Zorro" as people, in the tavern, acknowledged his presence, with smiles, and cheers. He climbed over the railing, swung down from the chandelier, then skillfully descended, to the floor.
"Buenos dias, Alcalde!" he greeted, with a smug look.
DeSoto, quickly turned, and glared at Zorro, with his usual, menacing expression.
"Zorro!" he growled. He turned, and raced to the door. "Lancers! Zorro!" he bellowed, in his usual harsh tone. He turned, and stormed into the tavern, then drew, his sword. "Prepare to die, Zorro!" he snarled.
Zorro drew his sword, and smiled. "Oh, I've always been prepared to die, Alcalde. Just not in the way, that you intended!" he stated, with a wry grin.
At that moment, Carroga quickly stepped between DeSoto, and Zorro, and drew his sword.
"No, Zorro! Ignacio DeSoto is mine! This is my fight!" he said, in a threatening tone, as he glared at DeSoto.
DeSoto, slightly lowered, his blade, and looked at Carroga, in surprise.
"Don Luis, what are you doing?! I have no quarrel, with you! This is between, Zorro, and me!" he remarked, sternly.
Zorro glanced at Carroga, with concern, then looked at DeSoto.
"Apparently not, Alcalde!" he remarked.
DeSoto looked at Carroga, in dismay.
"Señor, what's the meaning of this?!" he inquired, somewhat confused.
As Carroga was about to answer, Mendoza, and his men, quickly raced, inside the tavern, and immediately pointed their muskets at Zorro.
Carroga, pressed the point of his blade, against DeSoto's chest, as he flashed, a heated look, at DeSoto.
"I'm surprised at you, Ignacio! Don't you recognize me?" he inquired, in a derisive tone.
Suddenly, DeSoto, widened his eyes, as he felt the blood, rush from his face. He suddenly felt his heart, pounding in his ears, as he recognized, the man, who stood, before him.
"Madre de Dios! You're not Don Francisco Luis, you're Don Xavier Carroga, from Spain!" he stated, with a dazed expression.
Carroga chuckled. "You look as if, you have seen a ghost, Ignacio!" he stated, sardonically. "Perhaps, a ghost, from the past?" he smiled, wryly.
DeSoto, narrowed his eyes, as he glared, at Carroga.
"What are you doing, here?" he snapped.
Carroga smiled. "I'm here, to take your place, Ignacio, as Alcalde, of Los Angeles!" he stated, earnestly.
DeSoto eyed Carroga, sternly.
"What's the meaning of this! You can't do that! You have no authority!" he stated, angrily.
Carroga, eyed DeSoto, with contempt.
"Oh, can't I! Lancers, I'm afraid you have, the wrong man! This, is the man, you should be, arresting, not Zorro!" he stated, sternly.
Mendoza, looked at Carroga, in amazement.
"But Señor, that is our Alcalde! We can't arrest him!" he stated earnestly.
Carroga shook his head, as he looked, at Mendoza, decidedly.
"I beg to differ, Sergeant!" he stated. Veranos, stepped over, to Mendoza, and pulled out his warrant.
"He's right, Sergeant. I have a royal warrant, for the arrest of, one Don Ignacio DeSoto, Alcalde, of Los Angeles." he stated, as he handed Mendoza, the warrant.
As Mendoza, prepared to read, the warrant, DeSoto, noticed Carroga, looking at Veranos, and Mendoza. He quickly, brought his sword up, knocking Carroga's sword, from his chest.
"No one is going to arrest me!" he snarled, pointing his sword at Carroga.
Carroga, quickly countered, his attack, with a remise.
"We shall see, Señor!" he replied, with a smug look.
DeSoto, looked at Carroga, in surprise.
"Well Señor, you've been, practicing! Now let's see, how well you are, under pressure!" he replied, as he countered, with a parry.
Soon, there was a clash of swords, as Carroga and DeSoto began fighting. Diego held his breath, as he watched, the two men battle. He watched in amazement, as Carroga, countered DeSoto's every attack with skill and agility. 'Stay calm, Señor!' he said, to himself, as he watched them fight. People were scattering like flies, getting out of the way. At one point, the two men came face to face, as they glared at one another, through their swords.
"You may as well, as give up, DeSoto! Either way, you loose!" started Carroga, sternly.
"Never!" growled DeSoto, as he pushed Carroga, away.
The two men continued fighting, until Carroga finally countered with a wide twirl of his blade in a quick redoublement, and sent DeSoto's sword, crashing to the floor.
Carroga eyed DeSoto steadily, as he held the point of his blade under DeSoto's chin.
"Ignacio DeSoto, as Alcalde of this pueblo, I hereby arrest you in the name of King Ferdinand of Spain. Sergeant, take this man away!" he stated, with a decisive tone.
DeSoto, narrowed his eyes, as he looked, at Carroga.
"What are my charges! I demand to know what I am being arrested for!" he stated, with a heated look.
Carroga nodded to Mendoza. "Sergeant, please read, Señor DeSoto, his charges." He stated.
Mendoza looked at the parchment, in surprise, as he read the list of crimes, against DeSoto. "Sedition, tyranny, oppression, extortion, embezzling, ... ."
DeSoto broke in. "You can't prove, any of that!" he stated, angrily.
Mendoza, motioned for two of his lancers, to arrest DeSoto.
Escanto nodded. "On the contrary, Señor, we have more, than enough proof! He stated, earnestly.
Veranos nodded in agreement. "As a Representative, of King Ferdinand's, Royal Constabulary, I have done, a very extensive, investigation, of your position, as Alcalde of this pueblo. I have found, more than enough evidence, against you, to send you to prison, for a very, long time!" he stated, resolutely.
Mendoza, handed the warrant, back to Veranos, and ordered his men, to take DeSoto, to jail. As DeSoto, was leaving the tavern, he glanced back, at Carroga, with a flaming look.
"You won't get away with this, Carroga!" he cursed.
Veranos walked over, and put a firm hand, on DeSoto's shoulder, and looked at him, sternly.
"I wouldn't be making any threats, if I were you, Señor!" he remarked, with an alarming tone, as he shoved DeSoto, out the door.
Zorro walked over to Carroga, and smiled.
"Señor, I must congratulate you, on your remarkable skill, with the sword. That was truly amazing!" he nodded, in admiration.
Carroga, returned his sword, to its scabbard, and looked at Zorro, modestly.
"Ever since DeSoto, defeated me, in the plaza, I returned to the university in Spain, to seek out, my old sword master. Fortunately, he was still there. I told him of my dilemma, and he worked with me, for several months, until he felt, that I was ready. It was then, that I asked, Señor Veranos, to investigate, my case. That's how we found out, about your, Alcalde." he replied.
Zorro nodded. "I must say, that your sword master, taught you well, Señor! Pardone, Alcalde!" remarked Zorro, smiling.
"Gracias, Señor! I apologize, for not giving you, the honor, of fighting DeSoto, but I do appreciate, you being here, nonetheless!" stated Carroga, smiling.
Zorro made a slight bow. "De nada, Alcalde! There is no need to apologize. I must say, it was truly an experience, just watching you, fight! I have to confess, however, that I was concerned, for your safety. But it's quite obvious, that I, and my fellow citizens, have nothing, to worry, about! I have a feeling, that we will be, in good hands, from now on!" he stated, earnestly.
Carroga gave a slight nod. "Muchas Gracias, Señor Zorro. I appreciate, your confidence, in me!" he replied.
Victoria walked over, and stood beside Diego, as she looked at him, and smiled. He put his arm around her waist, and drew her close to his side, and smiled. Alejandro, Felipe, Sully, and Michaela, came over as well. Soon, others in the tavern, were coming over, to meet, their new, Alcalde. Victoria briefly spoke up.
"Señor Alcalde, what about Zorro? Do you too, consider him, a threat?" she asked, looking at Carroga, sternly.
Carroga looked at her, and smiled. "On the contrary, Señorita, I have told Señor Zorro, that from now on, he is a free man! I have given him a full pardon. He is free, to help the people, of Los Angeles as well." He looked over at Escanto, and nodded. Escanto pulled out the rolled up parchment and handed it to Carroga. He unrolled the parchment, then showed it to Victoria. As she read the document, she felt her heart pounding, against her chest. She looked at Carroga with a broad smile, and handed him the document.
"Mi gracias, Alcalde! You have done, Los Angeles, a great service, by pardoning Zorro! We are truly grateful, Señor!" she stated, warmly.
"De nada, Señorita. I too, will be grateful, to Zorro, for his offer, in helping me, maintain, law and order, in this pueblo, and help make it safe, for the citizens, of Los Anglels." He stated, resolutely.
Alejandro spoke up. "I'm sure, that you have nothing, to worry about, Alcalde. Zorro, has always been there, for his people. You won't, be disappointed." He remarked, with conviction.
Diego looked at Alejandro, and smiled. "Muchas gracias, Señor!" he replied, warmly.
"De nada, Señor!" replied Alejandro, warmly, giving Zorro, a quick wink.
While Alejandro, and the people, conversed, with Carroga, Diego took Victoria's hand, and quietly, led her upstairs. As they walked into Victoria's room, she quietly, shut the door. Diego removed his cape, hat, gloves, and sword, and this time, his mask. Victoria stepped over, to her jewelry case, and opened, the drawer. She took out the ring, that he had given her, then turned to Diego, and smiled. Diego took the ring, and gently slipped it on her finger. As he looked into her dark brown eyes, he slowly lowered himself, and kneeled down on one knee. Holding her hand, he looked up into her eyes.
"Victoria, I love you from the bottom of my heart, and I will love you, for the rest of my life. Will you do me the honor of being my wife? Victoria, will you marry me?" he asked, as he gazed passionately into her eyes.
As Victoria gazed into Diego's deep blue eyes, she felt the tears, that were welling in her eyes, slowly roll down her cheeks, as she slightly blinked, and smiled. She nodded warmly. "Yes! Yes Diego, I will marry you!" she replied, tenderly. He had asked her before, and she had said yes, but this time, she knew, it was certain.
As Diego rose, and stood before her, he felt his own tears fall from his face, as he wrapped his arms around her in a warm loving embrace. They held one another for a long time, in their embrace, knowing that nothing would ever come between them again.