Diego's Dilemma

Parte Siete

Nancy J. Smith

When Felipe and Victoria were out of sight, Diego quickly changed into his caballero clothes, then rode to meet his father.

Alejandro had just arrived at Boulder Creek. He pulled out his gold pocket watch, and looked at the time.

"I wonder where Diego is?" he said looking around.

He put his watch back in his pocket, then looked around once more. Off in the distance, he saw Diego riding toward him, leading two horses with two men tied up and hanging over the saddles. Alejandro stared in amazement.

"What in the world..."

Diego trotted his horse up to Alejandro, and smiled.

"Hola father." he greeted. "It looks like we won't be needing that money, after all." he stated with a smug look.

Alejandro looked at Diego in disbelief.

"Diego, who are those men, and why are they tied up?" he asked.

"Valentino Vargas, and Pedro Pico. They are the ones who kidnapped Victoria." he replied.

Alejandro gazed at Diego, anxiously.

"Surely you didn't capture these men by yourself? And where is Victoria?"

Diego shook his head. "Actually I was on my way to meet you, when I met Zorro. He handed me the reins to these horses, and told me to deliver them to the Alcalde. He had Victoria on Toronado and told me that he was going to take her, to our hacienda." replied Diego.

Alejandro nodded. "Is Victoria all right?" he asked.

Diego sighed as he prepared to answer his father.

"She's been through quite a lot, emotionally." He sighed ruefully.

Alejandro shook his head. "Poor Victoria. Thank goodness Zorro is bringing her to the hacienda. We'll take care of her, Diego." he said, compassionately.

Diego nodded. "Yes, we will."

They turned their horses around and took Vargas and Pico to town.

As Alejandro and Diego rode up to the Alcalde's office, DeSoto stepped out of his office and looked at them in surprise.

"Don Alejandro, Don Diego, what are you two doing here? Is there something wrong?" he asked.

Diego and Alejandro dismounted. Diego looked at DeSoto earnestly.

"We brought you the two men who kidnapped Señorita Escalante, last night." he replied.

DeSoto walked over to the two men hanging over the saddles.

"Vargas and Pico? They kidnapped Señorita Escalante?" he asked. Suddenly his face slightly reddened in anger. "Why wasn't I informed about this? Where is Señorita Escalante?" he asked angrily.

Alejandro looked at DeSoto decidedly. He proceeded to tell DeSoto how Diego had received a ransom note from Vargas, stating that he would kill Victoria, if he didn't bring him 12,000 pesos. He told DeSoto that they were afraid to get him and his lancers involved, for fear that Vargas would kill Victoria.

"Don't worry, Alcalde. Zorro not only captured Vargas and Pico, but rescued Señorita Escalante, and is taking her to our hacienda." Alejandro stated resolutely.

DeSoto looked around, then called out to his lancers.

"Lancers! Get these men off of these horses, and put them in jail!" he commanded.

Mendoza, Sepulveda, and Sanchez ran up and cut the ropes from Vargas and Pico, then took them to jail.

DeSoto turned to Alejandro and Diego, and looked at them sternly.

"You expect me to believe that preposterous story, about Zorro, saving Señorita Escalante's life? He was probably in on the kidnapping! And by the way, how did you two find these men already tied up?" he asked curiously.

Diego spoke up. "For one thing, Alcalde, Zorro was not in on the kidnapping. I have the ransom note to prove it! As for finding Vargas and Pico, I ran into Zorro as I was on my way to meet father to take the ransom money to Vargas. He had Vargas and Pico already tied up and asked us to bring them to you. He had Victoria with him and was going to take her to our hacienda. Naturally, I told him, we would bring these men in." he replied.

DeSoto looked at Diego sternly. "Leave it to you de la Vegas to defend Zorro! In any case, bring me that ransom note. If Vargas did write the note, then it will be used as evidence against him. In the future, the next time there is a kidnapping or any such incident, you are to report it to me! We can't have every citizen in this pueblo, taking the law into their own hands. It's my job as Alcalde to protect the citizens of this pueblo, and keep them safe from criminals like those two men, and of course Zorro! Is that clear?" he stated as he glared at Diego.

Diego nodded. "Alcalde, Zorro is not a criminal! I just told you that he saved Victoria's life! He even saved your life more than once." Diego stated firmly.

DeSoto looked at Diego earnestly. "All right, Diego. Zorro may have saved my life, I'll give you that! But he's still an outlaw! And that will never change!" he replied sternly. "Oh yes, tell Señorita Escalante to come by my office, and make a full report of her incident. The more evidence we have against these two men, the quicker we can send them to prison." he added.

Diego sighed, as he looked at DeSoto. "Alcalde, it may be some time before Victoria can make her report. She's been through quite an ordeal. Maybe she can give her report to me, then I'll bring it to you." he stated.

DeSoto nodded. "I understand, Diego. It would be better if she came in person, however. Let me know when she has recovered, and I'll ride out your hacienda, and get a statement from her there." he stated.

Diego nodded. "I'll let you know when she's better." he replied.

"Very well. I'll be expecting to hear from you." DeSoto stated.

Diego nodded.

"Give her my regards, Diego. I hope she recovers soon." DeSoto remarked in a generous tone.

Diego nodded. "Thank you, Alcalde, I will." he replied.

DeSoto gave a nod, then strolled back in his office.

Diego shook his head and sighed, then turned and mounted his horse.

Alejandro mounted his horse, then looked at Diego with concern.

"Are you all right, Diego?" he asked.

Diego looked at Alejandro anxiously.

"I'm just worried about Victoria."

4

Alejandro smiled. "Don't worry, Diego. She'll be all right. Victoria is a strong woman. With our help, she'll get through this. You'll see." he replied.

"I hope you're right." He said wistfully. He wished that he could tell his father, the truth about her, but he knew that he would find out, soon enough.

As Victoria and Felipe rode up to the de la Vega hacienda, Victoria's eyes widened, as she gazed in amazement at the beautiful house before her.

"Madre de Dios! What a beautiful hacienda!" she exclaimed.

Felipe quickly dismounted, then walked over to Toronado, and held the reins, as Victoria dismounted. As she walked toward the door, Felipe gave Toronado a quick slap on the rump, and the beautiful black stallion bounded away to the cave. Felipe quickly ran up to Victoria, and took her hand and led her to the side entrance, where the kitchen was.

Maria had just stepped outside to empty her bucket, when she saw Felipe, and Victoria walking up. She gasped in shock, as she saw Victoria's disheveled appearance.

"Madre de Dios! Señorita Escalante, what happened?" she asked in amazement.

Victoria shook her head.

"I'm sorry, Señorita, but who are you? And who is Señorita Escalante?" she asked curiously.

Felipe signed to Maria that Victoria needed food and rest. Maria nodded. She motioned for them to come inside.

"Please come in. You must be very hungry. Come in and sit down, and I will fix you something to eat, you poor girl!" she replied amiably.

Victoria and Felipe walked into the kitchen, and Felipe motioned for Victoria to sit down at the table. She sat down and waited while Felipe sat a plate, napkin, eating utensils, and a glass before her. Maria brought over a pot of stew, and dipped up a large portion, and served it on her plate. She sat a small basket of freshly baked bread before her, then poured her a cool glass of lemonade.

"Here Señorita. Eat all you want. I am Maria. If you need anything, just let me know." she remarked kindly.

Victoria nodded, then began eating. Victoria suddenly found herself eating as if she were starved. This food was much better, than those beans she had eaten, and the bread and lemonade was absolutely delicious. While she ate, Felipe signed to Maria what Diego had told him about Victoria's memory. He asked Maria to fix her a room to stay in.

Maria nodded. ", I will fix her a room and help her get cleaned up. You get Doctor Hernandez." She stated.

Felipe nodded then left to go get the doctor.

As Diego and Alejandro rode up to the hacienda, they saw Doctor Hernandez's horse and carriage by the gate.

'Thank goodness the doctor is here.' thought Diego.

Alejandro looked at Diego.

"Diego, what is Doctor Hernandez doing here?" he asked.

"I suppose Zorro sent for him. I'm sure he was worried about Victoria as well." he stated earnestly.

Alejandro nodded. "I'm sure you're right." he replied.

Before the doctor had arrived, Maria had helped Victoria with her bath, and given her one of Elena's nightgowns to sleep in. Maria had prepared Victoria 's room for her, and immediately put her to bed. She took Victoria's dirty clothes and gave them to one of the young servant girls and told her to wash them.

As Diego and Alejandro walked in, they happened to see Doctor Hernandez coming out of Victoria's room. Diego looked at him with concern.

"What's wrong, Doctor Hernandez?" he asked.

"Felipe told me that Zorro had brought Victoria to the hacienda, and that she was hurt. So I came to see what had happened. I just finished examining her. It's obvious that she has been through a terrible ordeal. She has suffered a severe trauma to the head, which has resulted in a concussion. She suffers from dizziness and headaches, and ..." Doctor Hernandez paused as he shook his head worriedly.

Diego put his hand on the kind Doctor's shoulder, and looked into his eyes.

"And what?" he asked anxiously.

Doctor Hernandez looked at him earnestly.

"And I'm afraid she has amnesia. She didn't know who she was, who I was, or anyone else for that matter. The only thing she remembers is Zorro saving her from these two men. She doesn't even know who they are or why they were holding her hostage. Her memory of the incident is completely blank. She only knows what has happened today. It's as if her past has been erased." He said sadly.

Diego dropped his hand from Doctor Hernandez's shoulder and put his hand to his head, and sighed.

Alejandro inwardly gasped as he looked at Doctor Hernandez with concern.

"Is there a chance that her memory will return, doctor?" he asked anxiously.

Doctor Hernandez shook his head. "I don't know. In most cases, depending on the trauma, most patients' memories do return. It just takes time." he stated.

"How soon do you think Victoria's memory will return?" Diego asked, earnestly.

Doctor Hernandez slightly shrugged and shook his head.

"It's hard to tell. It may be days, weeks, months. Sometimes if something very traumatic in their past has happened, then that memory may never return. Sometimes it's a matter of what they want to remember and what they want to forget. The human mind is still a mystery to us. No one knows what goes on in a person's mind. The only thing I can say for sure is, that with plenty of rest, plus time and patience, maybe some of her memory will return. I once read, where having things that were familiar around them, sometimes helps too. The main thing is time. She just needs time to recover and rest as well." he stated. "Oh yes, I've given her something for the headaches as well. I'll leave you the medicine, in case she needs more, for her headaches." he added.

Diego nodded. "Thank you Doctor. We'll do everything we can to help her." he stated decidedly.

Doctor Hernandez smiled. "I know you will."

"Can we see her?" Diego asked.

Doctor Hernandez nodded. "Yes. I think it will be all right. As I said, she needs rest, so don't stay too long." he stated.

Diego nodded. "We won't. Thank you for coming" he replied.

While Alejandro thanked Doctor Hernandez and paid him, Diego walked back to Victoria's room, and lightly knocked on her door.

"Who is it?" Victoria faintly called out.

Diego released a dejected sigh, as he prepared to answer her.

"It's Diego de la Vega, Señorita." He replied.

Victoria pulled the covers up around her chest and propped herself up on her pillow.

"Come in." she replied.

Diego walked in, and looked at her and smiled. He pulled up a chair beside her bed, and sat down.

"Buenas tardes, Señorita. Welcome to the de la Vega hacienda. How are you feeling?" he asked warmly.

Victoria managed a smile. "Much better, thank you. A woman named Maria gave me something to eat and drink. She gave me this beautiful gown to wear, and prepared this lovely room for me to sleep in. You have a lovely hacienda, Señor." she remarked.

Diego nodded and smiled. "Gracias! I'm glad you're feeling better. By the way, Maria is our cook. If you would like something special to eat, I can get Maria to fix it for you. She's an excellent cook." he stated.

Victoria smiled. "You're right, she is. That stew she made, was delicious." She remarked.

Diego smiled. "Well, I'll tell Maria. She'll be glad to hear that you liked it."

Victoria smiled. "Oh yes, it's very nice to meet you, Señor de la Vega. Thank you for letting me stay here."

Diego nodded. "You're very welcome, Señorita. You may stay here as long as you like or as long as it takes for you to recover." he remarked.

At that moment, Alejandro entered the room. He smiled at Victoria.

"Buenas tardes, Vic...Señorita." he quickly changed his greeting.

Victoria looked at him oddly. "You started to call me 'Victoria,' didn't you? Who are you, Señor?" she asked.

Alejandro nodded ruefully. "Forgive me, Señorita for being presumptuous. I am Alejandro de la Vega, Diego's father." he replied.

Victoria looked at him thoughtfully. "Mucho gusto, Señor. That's what that masked man Zorro who rescued me, called me. And your cook Maria called me Señorita Escalante. Do you know who I am?" she asked looking at Alejandro and Diego intently.

Diego looked up at Alejandro anxiously. Alejandro nodded.

"Your name is Victoria Escalante, Señorita." stated Diego resolutely.

Victoria rubbed her head, then looked at Diego and Alejandro.

"How do you and your cook and this Zorro know who I am?" she asked.

Diego took her hand and gently pressed it into his.

"Señorita, you have been through a very terrible ordeal. Right now, you need to get your rest. We can talk about all this later, after you have rested. If there is anything that you need, don't hesitate to ask. My father and I and our servants will be here if you need us." He stated warmly as he gazed into her eyes, and smiled.

Victoria glanced down at him holding her hand, then looked into his eyes and smiled. There was something familiar about him, that she couldn't remember. Maybe in time, she would.

"I suppose you're right, Señor. I am rather tired. Thank you for your concern." She replied warmly.

Diego released her hand, then rose from his chair, and looked at her once more and smiled.

"Get some rest, Victoria." he said softly.

Victoria lay on her pillow and sighed. She looked at Diego and smiled.

"Thank you for telling me my name, Señor. It's a very pretty name, 'Victoria.'" she remarked.

Diego smiled. "You're welcome, Victoria. I agree, it is a very pretty name." He replied warmly.

Diego and Alejandro walked out her room, then Diego quietly shut the door.

As Victoria closed her eyes, she thought to herself.

"If only I could remember who I am!"

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