Angle's coat, glistened in the sunlight, as she and Diego rode to the pueblo. Diego wondered, if he should have dressed as Zorro, just for fun, but quickly dismissed the idea, knowing what a commotion that would cause, and knowing DeSoto's hatred for Zorro, and the jeopardy, it would place on others. Seeing him ride this black horse into town, would turn enough heads, as it is.
As Diego rode through the pueblo gates, he got the result, he expected. Several mouths gaped open, as people stared in amazement, when they saw Diego, sitting astride this beautiful black horse, they thought was Toronado. However, once they realized that he was riding a mare, and not a stallion, Diego noticed a few embarrassed looks, as they shook their heads and chuckled, and went on about their business. Diego chuckled to himself.
"We had them going there for minute, didn't we girl!" he patted her on the neck, and smiled.
As he rode past the cuartel, however, Angel's appearance, was not dismissed so easily. Private Sanchez took one quick look at Angel, and immediately, sounded the alarm for Zorro. He dashed into DeSoto's office, and instantly accused Diego of being Zorro.
"What?! Have you lost your marbles, Private Sanchez?" DeSoto bellowed.
"But mi Alcalde, Don Diego is riding into town on Toronado. He must be Zorro!" he stated emphatically, standing at attention.
DeSoto looked at Sanchez, and stroked his beard. "All right Sanchez. Let's just see, if you're right." he stated, decidedly. He grabbed his sword, and followed Sanchez, out the door.
As Diego reined in Angel, in front of the tavern, and dismounted, he was quickly surrounded by lancers, pointing their muskets at him, and looking very angry. He looked around, and saw DeSoto and Sanchez, walking toward him. Victoria rushed out of the tavern, followed by her patrons, that were inside, and looked at Diego, in shock and amazement. Diego calmly tethered his horse to the hitching post, and looked at DeSoto with a placid expression.
"What's going on, Alcalde? What's with all the lancers and their guns? Have I done something wrong?" he asked with curiosity.
DeSoto glared at Diego. "You tell me! You're rather calm, for someone who is about to be under arrest, Senor Zorro!" he stated, with a smug look.
'I think my little ruse, slightly backfired.' thought Diego. He straightened his jacket, and smiled, as he looked at DeSoto.
"Don't be ridiculous, Alcalde! What makes you think, I'm Zorro?" he chuckled.
DeSoto looked at him sternly. "That's Toronado, and you were riding him!" he remarked.
Diego couldn't contain himself, any longer. He leaned back against Angel's saddle, and burst out laughing. Everyone, including Victoria, looked at Diego, as if he had lost his mind.
"I fail to see the humor in this!" DeSoto grumbled, as he shot a searing look, at Diego.
Diego finally composed himself, and wiped the tears from his eyes, then looked at DeSoto smugly.
"Excuse me for laughing, Alcalde, but you'll have to admit, this whole scenario, is pretty ridiculous." He remarked.
DeSoto huffed. "Well, let's just see how ridiculous, you think it is, sitting, in my jail! Lancers, arrest Don Diego, on suspicion, of being Zorro! And impound that horse, as well!" he added.
Victoria's face, grew red with anger. "Alcalde! This is ridiculous! Diego couldn't possibly be, Zorro! You're making a big, mistake!" she cried.
DeSoto looked at her, with contempt. "We shall see, Señorita!" he motioned for two of the lancers, to arrest Diego.
As Diego was about to be apprehended, Sergeant Mendoza, glanced at Diego's horse, and suddenly gasped.
"Mi Alcalde, wait a minute!" he began waving his hands in the air. "We can't arrest Don Diego!" he shouted, anxiously.
DeSoto glared at Mendoza. "Are questioning my orders, Sergeant?!"
Mendoza shook his head. "No, mi Alcalde, but this horse, is not Toronado!"
DeSoto's eyes grew wide. "What do you mean, it's not Toronado! Of course it is, Sergeant!" he stated.
Mendoza shook his head again. "I'm sorry mi Alclade, but it's not! This is a mare, and everyone, even you, know that Zorro's horse, is a stallion! Señorita Escalante is right! Don Diego, is not Zorro!" he stated, resolutely.
DeSoto walked over, and looked at Diego's horse. Suddenly, his face grew very red.
"The Sergeant is right! This is not, Toronado." He turned, and looked at Private Sanchez.
Sanchez stepped up, and saluted. "Sí, mi Alclade!"
"Report to my office immediately, for latrine duty!" he commanded, glaring at Sanchez.
A grim expression, appeared on Sanchez's face, as he saluted. "Sí, mi Alcalde!"
DeSoto eyed Sanchez disdainfully. "No wonder you're still a private, Private!" he stated firmly.
DeSoto turned to the lancers. "Stand down you're arms, and release Don Diego. Return to the garrison, men!"
The two lancers released Diego, and along with the others, returned to the garrison. Sergeant Mendoza, and DeSoto, stayed behind. DeSoto looked at Diego, rather annoyed.
"If this was your idea of a joke, de la Vega, it was a very poor one! I should have you arrested, just for causing, a disturbance!" he stated, angrily.
Diego looked at DeSoto earnestly. "I apologize Alcalde. I had no idea, that your lancers, were unable to distinguish a mare, from a stallion. Maybe, they need a refresher course, in animal physiology." He replied, with a slight grin.
DeSoto's face turned red as he looked at Diego. "Don't get smart with me, Diego! I can always change my mind!" he briefly composed himself. "Granted that was an error on Private Sanchez's part, and I apologize, for troubling you. But the next time, you create such a disturbance, de la Vega, I will order my men, to arrest you! Is that clear?" he admonished.
Diego nodded. "I understand, Alcalde. Again, I apologize, for any inconvenience, I caused to you, and your men."
DeSoto straightened his tunic, and sighed. "Well...just see that it doesn't happen again!" he stated, with a haughty expression. He turned and walked back to his office. As Mendoza, Diego, and Victoria, watched DeSoto, walk away, Mendoza and Victoria breathed a sigh of relief. All of Victoria's patrons, returned to the tavern, and sighed in relief, as well.
Victoria looked at Diego with concern. "Diego, that wasn't very smart, riding that horse into town. Even if she's not Toronado, the Alcalde, was about to arrest you, just because he thought, you were Zorro. All because, of that horse. It's a good thing that Sergeant Mendoza recognized, that she was a mare." She remarked, earnestly.
Diego smiled, and turned to Mendoza, and patted him on the shoulder.
"Thank you Sergeant, for coming to my rescue. Like Victoria said, it's a good thing, you alerted DeSoto, to the fact that I was riding a mare, and not a stallion." Diego commented.
Mendoza smiled. "You're welcome, Don Diego. You were lucky the Alcalde didn't arrest you on the spot. I guess, he was in a good mood, today. By the way, I pride myself, on having a keen eye, for observation." he added, smiling.
Diego chuckled. "Well, thank goodness, for DeSoto being in a good mood, and thank goodness, for your keen eye." he remarked, smiling. He reached in his pocket, and pulled out his gold pocket watch, and looked at the time. He put his watch back in his pocket, and looked at Mendoza.
"Well Sergeant, since it's almost lunchtime, how about me, treating you, to some lunch?" he remarked.
Mendoza patted his stomach, and grinned. "Oh thank you, Don Diego. That's very generous of you!"
Diego smiled. "Well, it's the least I can do, after what you did, for me! That took nerve, standing up to DeSoto, like that." he remarked.
Victoria nodded. "Yes, it did!"
Mendoza slightly shrugged, and smiled.
"Shall we?" Said Diego smiling as he ushered his two friends into the tavern.
Diego and Mendoza, quickly found a table, while Victoria went to the kitchen and prepared lunch. While he and Mendoza waited, Diego excused himself, and walked back to the kitchen, to talk to, Victoria. As he stepped through the curtain, Victoria looked up, and smiled.
"Is there something, I can do for you, Diego?" she asked, warmly.
Diego shook his head, and smiled. "I just wanted to thank you, for standing up for me. That took as much nerve, as Mendoza. Thank you, Victoria." he replied, gazing into her soft brown eyes.
Victoria smiled, and slightly blushed. "You're welcome, Diego. After all, you would have done the same, for me." she remarked, warmly.
Diego nodded. "You're right, I would have." he replied, compassionately. "Victoria..." he slightly paused, wondering, how he was going to approach the subject, of Zorro to her. "I need to ask you something." he stated earnestly.
Victoria nodded, as she continued chopping her vegetables, for her soup. "Of course, Diego. What's on your mind?" she asked.
"Well..." he paused again. 'Get to the point Diego, quit stalling!' he said to himself. "remember when you told DeSoto, that I couldn't possibly be, Zorro?"
"Yes." Victoria said, throwing her vegetables, into the pot.
"Well, what makes you think, that I'm not?" he asked, eyeing her intently.
Victoria shook her head. "Really, Diego! Don't be silly!" she replied, with that whimsical little smile of hers. "There's a world of difference, between you, and Zorro! Zorro has something, you just don't have." she stated, stirring her soup.
Diego folded his arms across his chest, as he leaned back, against the firm adobe wall.
"Oh, you mean the flashy black costume, the beautiful black stallion, the impressive sword and whip? Well, I suppose you have a point, Victoria." he stated flatly.
Victoria looked up from her cooking, and looked at Diego.
"Diego, it's not just what's on the outside. There's something about him, on the inside, that I love." she stated, wistfully.
Diego, slightly shifted his weight, to the other foot. 'Do I really, want to hear this?' he thought. "And that would be...?" he asked anyway.
Victoria looked into his eyes, as she was about to speak. Diego inwardly composed himself, as he felt the intensity of her gaze. He slightly blinked, as she prepared to speak.
"Zorro has compassion, and strength. Not just physical strength, but inner strength, as well. His passion to help the people of this pueblo, is greater than anything, I've ever seen. He's truly amazing, Diego!" she replied, passionately.
Diego nodded. "I see! Did it ever occur to you, Victoria, that I, might have those same feelings about our pueblo, as well?" he asked, with a slight edge to his voice.
Victoria slightly blushed, as she noticed the pained look, in Diego's eyes. She walked over, and put her hand on his arm, and looked at him compassionately.
"I'm sorry, Diego. I didn't mean to insinuate, that you didn't care. I know that you do, whatever you can, to help people. It's just that, you show your feelings for the pueblo, differently than Zorro." She stated.
Diego sighed, and managed a smile. He slightly relaxed his stance, as he put his hand, on Victoria's shoulder.
"Thank you for your candor, Señorita. I'm relieved to know, that you at least realize, that I do share the same feelings, for our pueblo, as Zorro." he remarked earnestly. He slid his hand from her shoulder, and walked over to the curtain. He looked at Victoria, somewhat wistfully. "I suppose the fact, that you don't see me out chasing bandits, riding through the pueblo carving Z's on the Alcalde's uniform, and defending the poor, and helpless, makes me less, appealing." He stated, slightly dismayed.
Victoria looked at him smiled. "Diego de la Vega! You know me, better than that! Just because you're not Zorro, and don't do the things he does, doesn't mean, that you're less appealing or any less a man. You do whatever can to help, and so does Zorro, and I admire, and love you both, for what you do!" she replied, warmly.
Diego looked at Victoria, with mild amazement.
"Do you really mean that, Victoria?" he asked.
Victoria walked over, and pressed a light kiss upon his cheek, and smiled.
Diego slightly blushed, as he was briefly taken aback, by her sudden display, of affection. He managed a smile, nonetheless.
"Absolutely!" replied Victoria, warmly. "Now if you don't mind, I have to finish, preparing lunch." she stated, with a decided look.
Before he left, he paused and looked at Victoria, and smiled.
"Victoria, I just happened to remember an old saying, that I read, some time ago." he remarked, with a smug look.
"What's that, Diego?" she asked.
"I think, it goes something, like this..." he began. "It is impossible to tell, by the exterior appearance of a nut, what sort of kernal, is inside. Well, just a little food for thought!" he added, with a sly smile. He gave a wink, and walked out.
Victoria shook her head, and smiled, as she finished preparing her food, for her numerous hungry patrons. Diego's saying, echoed in her mind, as she worked. 'Could Diego really be Zorro?' she thought to herself. 'I wonder.' She temporarily pushed the idea aside, until she could give it, further thought.