Diego's Dilemma

Parte Seis

Nancy J. Smith

Victoria opened her eyes and looked around. As far as she knew, she was in a cave. Where in a cave, she didn't know. For that matter, who was she? And who were those men who had tied her up, and why had they tied her up? What had she done?

Her whole body ached, and her head was pounding so hard, that she thought it was going to explode. She tried sitting up, but the dizziness combined with the ringing in her ears, made it difficult. She lay back down on the hard dirt floor and closed her eyes, hoping that would make things better. She briefly caught the smell of coffee and what she thought were beans cooking over a campfire, as a small breeze blew the aroma toward the cave. She felt her stomach growling as she thought of how good those odors smelled. She opened her eyes again as she heard one of the men walking toward the cave.

As Pedro entered the cave, he noticed Victoria had awakened. He looked at her and smiled.

"Well, I see the pretty Seņorita is finally awake." He remarked.

Victoria gazed up at Pedro, trying to figure out who this man was and why she was in this cave. Pedro grabbed her by her arms and quickly pulled her up. The moment Victoria stood up, she felt the inside of her head begin to spin. Her knees slightly buckled beneath her and she suddenly fell against Pico. He quickly caught her and pulled her to her feet.

"What's the matter Seņorita, too much tequila last night?" he chuckled.

Victoria shook her head trying to stay conscious. Since she couldn't remember anything else, that was one thing she did remember; she didn't drink tequila. She glared at Pedro at his insinuating remark.

Pedro grabbed her arm and walked her down to the camp.

"Time for breakfast, Seņorita. You didn't expect us to bring it to you, did you?" he scoffed.

Victoria looked at him angrily, but kept silent.

Pedro guided her to a small boulder, then looked at her sternly as he pointed to the boulder.

"Sit down!" he commanded.

Victoria looked at him in defiance.

Pedro shoved her down on the boulder and looked at her angrily.

"I said, sit down!" he demanded.

Victoria slightly flinched as her bottom struck the unforgiving stone.

Pedro walked over and dipped up a plate of beans, then picked up a fork and handed it to Victoria. She put the plate on her lap and looked at Pico.

"How am I supposed to eat, with my hands tied?" she asked sternly.

Pedro pulled out his knife and looked at her harshly as he jerked her hands up and cut the rope around her wrists.

"I'm only cutting you loose, so you can eat, but don't try anything! Otherwise, I'll kill you!" he said holding the point of his knife under her chin. "Comprender?"

Victoria narrowed her eyes as she looked at him angrily.

"I understand!" she replied.

Pedro smiled. "Bueno!" he sheathed his knife, then walked over and poured her a cup a of coffee, and handed it to her.

"Gracias." She said.

"De nada." He replied.

As Victoria ate her beans, she slightly grimaced as she swallowed them. 'These are truly awful!' she thought. Somewhere back in her mind, she remembered someone, she couldn't remember who, saying that if you closed your eyes, it hid the taste. However, considering how bad they were, she doubted that it would help. No matter how bad they were, she was hungry, and they were better than nothing. After she finished eating, she drank her coffee. It was just as bad, or worse, than the beans, but she drank it anyway. She inwardly shuddered.

Despite the bad food, she seemed to feel a little better. Her head still ached and she was still a little dizzy, but at least her stomach wasn't empty.

She glanced over and saw another man, a much taller man, laying against a rock, nursing a wounded shoulder. Pedro took a plate of beans and coffee over to Vargas and sat it down beside him. He kneeled down beside Vargas and carefully examined his shoulder.

"Your shoulder looks pretty bad Vargas. We need to get you to a doctor." He stated with concern.

Vargas winced as Pedro gently removed the bloody bandage, he had put on Vargas's shoulder last night.

"I don't need a doctor! Just change the bandage!" he grumbled.

Pedro nodded. He walked over to his saddlebag, and pulled out some fresh bandages and some salve he had found, in Victoria's kitchen. He picked up his canteen and walked over to Vargas. After he cleaned the wound, he carefully put some salve on Vargas's shoulder, then wrapped his wound with the clean bandages.

"I guess that will have to do for now." He stated.

"Gracias!" said Vargas.

"De nada." Replied Pedro.

Pedro put the bandages and salve back in his saddlebag, then walked over and dished up some beans and poured some coffee for himself. As he walked past Victoria, she looked at him curiously.

"What's wrong with that man over there?" she asked.

Pedro sat down on a small boulder, shook his head and gave Victoria a strange look.

"What do mean, 'what's wrong with him?' Are you loco? You stabbed him!" he replied angrily. "You're lucky he's not dead, Seņorita!" he added. He picked up his fork, then ate his beans, then drank his coffee.

Victoria shook her head as she stared at Vargas in disbelief.

"No Seņor. I did not stab that man! You must be mistaken." She replied looking at Pedro earnestly.

Pedro sat down his plate and cup, then stood up and glared at Victoria.

"Is this some kind of joke?!! Because if it is, it's not funny, Seņorita! Last night you stabbed my friend! Or don't you remember?" he asked sternly.

Victoria shook her head. "No Seņor, I am serious. I don't remember stabbing your friend. I don't even know why I'm here, who I am, or who you or that man is, for that matter!" she stated resolutely.

Pedro eyed Victoria pensively. He walked over to her and pulled her up as he looked into her eyes.

"You'd better not be lying, Seņorita or playing any tricks!" he snarled in a menacing tone.

Victoria shook her head and looked at Pedro nervously.

"I'm not lying, Seņor! I don't even know where I'm from! I don't remember anything!" she replied, rubbing the side of her head. The dizziness in her head had returned, as Victoria felt herself swaying then suddenly everything went black.

Pedro quickly grabbed her, before she hit the ground. He picked her up and carried her back to the cave. He lay her down near the entrance and put a folded blanket under her head. He found some extra rope then tied her hands and feet in case she woke up and tried to escape. He gazed her thoughtfully for a moment as a wry smile crossed his lips.

"Well Seņorita, you might come in handy after all!" he stated smugly. He turned and walked out of the cave.

As Vargas sat eating his breakfast, he looked up and saw Pedro walking toward him.

"What happened to the Seņorita?" he asked.

"I think she fainted." replied Pedro with a slight grin.

Vargas chuckled. "You always did have a way with the ladies."

Pedro shook his head and ignored his friend's remark. "Vargas, you must have really hit the Seņorita pretty hard." he remarked earnestly.

Vargas gave Pedro a curious look. "What do you mean?" he asked.

Pedro smiled. "You won't believe this, but she doesn't know who she is! She doesn't even know who we are! She doesn't remember anything! Not even stabbing you!" he stated.

Vargas flashed an angry look at Pedro.

"You expect me to believe that?! She's lying! She's trying to trick you!" he replied sternly.

Pedro shook his head. "You forget Vargas, I'm good at reading people. I can tell when somebody is lying, and the Seņorita is not lying!" he replied decidedly.

Vargas looked at Pedro as he stroked his chin thoughtfully. A sly smile appeared on his lips as he gazed up at the cave. He turned and looked at Pedro.

"If that's true, then we could use her to get back at de la Vega!" he remarked.

Pedro looked at Vargas curiously.

"What do you mean?"

Vargas stood up as he looked at Pedro intently.

"When de la Vega comes to bring us the money, we could use the Seņorita to collect the money for us, then she could kill, de la Vega!" he remarked.

Pedro looked at Vargas anxiously. "How are you going to get her to do that? Why would she have a reason to kill him?" he asked.

Vargas looked at Pedro decidedly. "Don't worry, Pedro, we'll give her a reason. We'll tell her that this money that de la Vega is bringing was stolen from a bank and we have to get it back and return it. If he refuses to give her the money, she'll kill him." he replied with a sly smile.

Pedro nodded. "Let's just hope that she believes us!" he remarked.

Vargas smiled. "Don't worry, she will!"

It wasn't long until Red Rock Canyon was coming into view. Diego knew that Vargas and Pico would be waiting for him as Diego, but not as Zorro. 'This would be a distinct advantage in capturing those two criminals.' thought Diego. However, he knew that he had to be careful when dealing with a hostage situation. He didn't want to risk endangering Victoria's life. He knew that it would definitely take some planning.

As he neared the canyon, he heard the sound of horses neighing and men talking. He reined in Toronado then carefully dismounted being sure not to make any noise. He commanded Toronado to stay quiet, which of course he did. He crept up to the edge of the small canyon and crouched behind a boulder. As he peered around the boulder, he saw Vargas and Pedro sitting around their campfire talking. He looked past the two men and saw a small cave behind them. A shaft of sunlight briefly shown on the entrance of the cave just long enough for him to see Victoria laying at the entrance.

'I just hope she's still alive.' he thought anxiously. Diego looked over and saw Vargas carrying a canteen of water up to the cave. As Vargas stepped up to Victoria, he opened the canteen, and poured the water in her face. Victoria suddenly shook her head and sputtered as she managed to sit up.

Diego shook his head in disgust. 'Pig!' he thought. "I've got to find a way down there!" he said quietly to himself. He looked around until his eyes fell on a small pathway just a few feet away from where he was. He got up and walked over to Toronado, then grabbed the extra rope he had brought that hung from the saddle horn.

"If I can just slide down this rope to that pathway without them seeing me, I can sneak up on them and get Victoria." He said.

Diego crept over to where the path was below the edge of the canyon. He tightly secured his rope to a large boulder, then carefully let the other end fall below the edge.

"Wish me luck, Toronado!" Diego said quietly. Toronado bobbed his head.

Diego grabbed the rope, then quietly and carefully slid down the long black rope until he came to the path. He lightly dropped down on the path, then crouched behind another large boulder, making sure he wasn't seen or heard. He peered over the boulder, and noticed that they hadn't spotted him.

'Gracias Dios!' he thought. He glanced over and noticed that Vargas was untying Victoria's feet. He grabbed her arm, and pulled her up to her feet. He saw Victoria trying to jerk free, as Vargas tightened his grip.

'This has gone on long enough!' thought Diego angrily. He quietly made his way down the path then hid behind a bush near the campfire. As Pedro walked past the bush, Diego quickly jumped from behind the bush and tapped Pedro on the shoulder. As Pedro turned around, Diego quickly landed a forceful right cross to Pedro's jaw, sending him sprawling to the ground unconscious. 'That's one!' thought Diego. He unsheathed his sword, and quickly slashed a 'Z' on Pedro's jacket. He stepped out in front of Vargas, then pointed his sword at him.

"Let the Seņorita go, Seņor!" he demanded in a cautioning tone.

Vargas's eyes widened as he looked at Zorro. Victoria's eyes widened as well as she put her hand to her mouth and gasped in fear.

"Who are you?" snapped Vargas, as he regained his senses.

"I am Zorro!" replied Diego.

Vargas quickly grabbed Victoria around her neck with his arm and pulled out his pistol and pressed it to her head.

"Drop your sword, Seņor Zorro or the Seņorita dies!" he growled.

Diego glanced down and saw the coffee pot sitting on the fire. He looked at Vargas as a sly smiled crossed his lips. As he dropped his sword, quickly gave the coffee pot a force kick sending it flying through the air, hitting Vargas in the face. Vargas immediately released Victoria as he grabbed his face and screamed in pain. Diego ran over to Vargas and grabbed the scruff of his shirt.

"If you think that's painful, Seņor, wait until you feel this!" snarled Diego. He drew back and landed a forceful punch to Vargas's jaw knocking him unconscious and sending him slumping to the ground.

Victoria stared in amazement and shock as she watched this masked man dispatch someone, who was as big, as if not bigger than he was.

Diego turned over Vargas's body and noticed the blood on his shirt. He opened his shirt and looked at the wound.

"Vargas's blood!" he sighed in relief. Remembering the bloody rag. He stood up and began walking toward Victoria.

"Victoria, are you all right?" he said reaching out his hand to her.

Victoria suddenly backed away in fear.

"Don't touch me!" she cried with a frightened look in her eyes.

Diego's eyes widened, as he looked at her in surprise.

"Victoria, what's wrong? I'm not going to hurt you!" he said softly.

Victoria shook her head. "Why do you keep calling me 'Victoria?' Stay away from me!" she snapped.

Suddenly Diego felt a deep pit in his stomach as he realized what was wrong. He gazed at her with compassion as he saw the fear and hate in her eyes.

"Madre de Dios! What did they do to you!" he stated resentfully as he looked into her eyes. He sheathed his sword, then shook his head and sighed as he turned and walked over to Vargas's and Pedro's horses and took the rope from their saddles. He walked over to Pico and began tying him up, then proceeded to tie up Vargas. He glanced over and saw Victoria sitting on a rock, wiping the tears from her eyes. He picked up a canteen and slowly walked over to her. Victoria looked up at him anxiously as he stood before her.

Diego slowly took out his knife and smiled.

"Seņorita, let me cut those ropes so you can drink this water." He stated softly. "I promise, I won't hurt you." He said warmly, as he looked into her eyes.

As Victoria looked into this masked man's eyes, she seemed to sense that he was there to help her. She held up her hands and nodded. Diego gently took her hands, then kneeled before her and cut the ropes with his knife. He gave her the canteen and gazed at her as she drank.

"Are you all right?" he asked with concern as he gazed upon her bruised features. He wanted to put his arms around her let her know that everything was all right, but in her present state, he knew that would be a mistake.

Victoria slightly nodded and managed a smile.

"I...think so!" she put her hand to her head and slightly rubbed it. "My head hurts and I feel dizzy." She slightly shook her head as that swirling feeling returned.

Diego removed his glove and gently touched her head. He felt a large bump on the side and shook his head. Victoria slightly winced in pain. Diego removed his hand and sighed.

"Forgive me! I think you have a slight concussion, Seņorita. That's probably why you feel dizzy." He stated worriedly. "I know some people who you can stay with until you recover. Wait here while I get my horse." He added decidedly.

Victoria nodded.

Diego brought over Vargas and Pico's horses then threw Vargas and Pico over the saddles. He securely tied them to their horses, then whistled for Toronado. 'That should hold them.' thought Diego. Soon Toronado trotted down to the campsite. Diego walked over to Victoria and looked at her with concern.

"Do you think you'll be able to ride?" he asked

Victoria nodded. "I think so, Seņor."

Diego held out his hand to Victoria and smiled. She timidly put her hand in his and slightly blushed as he helped her to her feet. She looked over at Vargas and Pico, then at Zorro.

"What are you going to do with those two men, Senor Zorro?" she asked.

"They're going to jail, Seņorita." He stated.

Victoria nodded. "Seņor, Zorro? Why are you called the fox?" she asked.

Diego smiled at her warmly. "It's a long story, Seņorita. Maybe I will tell you when I have more time." he replied.

Victoria smiled and nodded.

By now Toronado was patiently waiting for his master, as Zorro and Victoria walked toward him. Victoria's eyes widened in amazement.

"Such a beautiful horse, Seņor! What is his name?" she asked.

Zorro smiled. "Toronado. Don't worry, he's very gentle." he replied.

Victoria smiled. "Thank goodness!

Diego helped her into Toronado's saddle, then walked over and collected the other horses bearing Vargas and Pico. He led them over to Toronado, then tied the reins to the back of Toronado's saddle. He climbed into the saddle behind Victoria, then gathered the reins and trotted Toronado out of the canyon.

Fortunately for Diego, he still had a few hours before he was to meet his father at Boulder Creek. He still had time to meet Felipe at Cielo Ridge and get Victoria to the hacienda.

As they rode toward the ridge, Diego could tell that Victoria's ordeal had taken its toll on her as she lay against him and rested her head on his shoulder. Diego slipped his arm around her waist and gently held onto her so she wouldn't fall. He briefly felt her tense body relax as she released a weary sigh.

When they arrived at their destination, Diego saw Felipe waiting for him with the extra horse as they had planned. Diego reined in Toronado, then dismounted as Toronado came to a stop. Victoria rubbed her eyes then looked at Felipe.

"Who is that boy, Seņor? And why have we stopped here?" she asked.

Diego's heart sank as he looked at her. It was hard enough excepting the fact that she didn't know him as Zorro. He even doubted that she knew him as Diego as well. It was obvious that her amnesia was worse than he had thought. He managed a smile for her nonetheless.

"His name is Felipe. He is a servant boy to the de la Vegas, who are friends of mine. He will take you to their hacienda. A man and his son, Alejandro and Diego de la Vega will take care of you. You may take my horse, Seņorita, and follow Felipe. And don't worry about my horse, he knows his way back home." He remarked smiling.

Victoria looked down at Zorro, and extended her hand, and smiled.

"Thank you, for saving me." she said, amiably.

Diego wondered if he should kiss her hand. Instead, he took her hand in both of his and gave her hand a gentle squeeze. He smiled as he gazed into her eyes.

"You are most welcome, Seņorita. Your safety as always, is my main concern." He stated warmly.

Victoria slightly blushed and smiled. She slipped her hands from his then gathered the reins in her hand. Diego smiled, then walked over to Felipe.

"Felipe, make sure Victoria gets to the hacienda safely. After you get there, make sure she gets something to eat, and get Maria to fix a room for her. Also go get Doctor Hernandez. I'm afraid she doesn't know who she is, or anyone else for that matter." He remarked in hushed tone.

Felipe looked at him with concern.

Diego put a reassuring hand on his shoulder.

"I'll explain later." He stated. "Father and I will be at the hacienda, as soon as we finish our business in town." He added.

Felipe nodded. He walked over to his pony, and quickly mounted. Diego walked back to Toronado, and untied the two horses from his saddle. He looked up at Victoria.

"You will be in good hands with Felipe. He will make sure that you get to the de la Vega hacienda safely." He stated.

Victoria nodded and smiled. "Adios, Seņor Zorro! Vaya Con Dios!" she said.

Diego felt a lump in his throat as he swallowed. Somehow, he had to make her remember, but he knew that it would take time.

"Vaya Con Dios, Seņorita!" he replied. As he watched them ride away, a tear rolled down his cheek.

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