Diego's Dilemma

Parte Nueve

Nancy J. Smith

While Victoria rested, Diego told Felipe to stay at the hacienda and take care of Victoria, in case she needed anything while he was gone. Diego had promised DeSoto that he would bring him the ransom note Vargas had left him. Hopefully that would be proof enough to convict Vargas, and Pico. Diego also had decided to take the bloody rag and knife as further proof of evidence. Diego collected his evidence, said good-bye to Felipe, then he and Alejandro rode to town.

As they rode to the pueblo, Diego hardly said a word. He still felt that he was partially to blame, for Victoria's amnesia. 'If only I had acted in a more rational manner, instead of like some raging bull!' thought Diego. He shook his head and sighed. Alejandro glanced over at Diego and looked at him with concern.

"Diego, what's wrong? You haven't said a word all the way to town?" he remarked.

Diego looked at Alejandro remorsefully.

"I'm sorry, father. I just feel responsible for what happened to Victoria. If only I hadn't been so impulsive! I should have challenged Vargas with words, instead of actions." he replied ruefully.

Alejandro looked at Diego insightfully.

"Diego, sometimes acting on impulse is good for the soul. If I had been twenty years younger, I would have done the same thing, in your situation. Don't blame yourself, Diego. What happened to Victoria, was not your fault. Vargas is the type of man, who would seek vengeance, just for the sake of revenge. You did what you thought was right, Diego, and that's all any man can do." he replied compassionately.

Diego looked at Alejandro and nodded. A worried look crossed his features as he sighed.

"But what if Victoria's memory never returns?" he asked.

Alejandro looked at Diego with reassurance.

"Doctor Hernandez said that it would take time. Be patient, Diego. Just being around familiar faces and familiar surroundings, there's a chance that her memory may return, in time. Give her time, Diego. She'll come around." He replied earnestly.

Diego slightly smiled, and nodded.

"I hope so!" he replied.

Diego and Alejandro trotted their horses up to DeSoto's office, reined them in, then dismounted. They tethered their horses to the hitching post, then Diego collected his evidence from his saddlebag. As Diego knocked on the office door, DeSoto issued his usual greeting.

"Come in!" he grumbled.

Alejandro and Diego strolled into DeSoto's office, and looked at him resolutely.

"buenos días, Alcalde." Greeted Diego.

DeSoto looked at Diego with a slight smile.

"Buenos días, Don Diego, Don Alejandro. What can I do for you?" he replied, leaning back in his chair.

Diego pulled out the ransom note from his pocket, and the bag containing the rag and knife, then laid them on DeSoto's desk.

"I've brought the evidence that you requested, that links Vargas and Pico to the kidnapping." he replied earnestly.

DeSoto sat up in his chair and looked at the note, then looked at the rag and knife. He looked at Diego somewhat curious.

"By the way, Diego, how did you come by these items, anyway?" he asked.

"Pilar the young girl from the tavern brought them to us that morning, after she found them in the kitchen. The note was addressed to me, and she found the knife, stuck in the table and the rag, laying next to it." He stated earnestly.

DeSoto nodded. "Well, this knife and bloody rag explains the wound on Vargas's shoulder. After Doctor Hernandez examined his shoulder, he remarked that it looked like a knife wound. Evidently Señorita Escalante stabbed him." he stated.

Diego nodded. "Obviously there was a struggle, and she stabbed him in self defense. I hope you don't plan on pressing charges against Victoria?" he remarked sternly.

DeSoto shook his head. "Of course not, Diego. If it was self defense, as you say, then there will be no reason to press charges." he stated decidedly. He studied the items on his desk for a moment, then looked up. "Oh yes, one more thing, Diego. We can also add robbery to Vargas's and Pico's charges." he added.

Diego's eyes slightly widened. "Really?" he asked.

DeSoto nodded. "Yes. We found 20,000 pesos in Pico's saddlebag. Obviously they were planning on robbing the tavern as well." he stated.

Alejandro spoke up.

"Well Alcalde, I hope you returned the money to the tavern? That money belongs to Victoria!" he stated firmly.

DeSoto shook his head. "I'm sorry Don Alejandro, but I'll have to keep that money as evidence. After the trial, I'll gladly return it." he stated.

Alejandro nodded. He gave DeSoto a discerning look.

"Well, as long as you don't plan on using that money for your own purposes, Alcalde!" he remarked sternly.

DeSoto stood up and glared at Alejandro.

"How dare you make such an accusation! I should have you arrested for that!" he stated angrily.

Diego quickly stepped between the two men as they glared at one another.

"Alcalde, I'm sure my father was just concerned about all of Victoria's money being returned to the tavern. After all, she does need that money to keep the tavern running. And being the only tavern in the pueblo, the people would be very upset, if anything should suddenly happen to it." he stated decidedly.

DeSoto straightened his tunic as he slightly relaxed is stance.

"I'll have you know, gentlemen, that Señorita Escalante's money is securely locked up in my safe, and it will stay there until after the trial!" he replied sternly.

Diego nodded.

"I understand, Alcalde. I'm glad to see that Victoria's money is in a safe place." he stated earnestly.

DeSoto looked at Diego with concern.

"By the way, how is the Señorita? I still need a statement from her so she can press charges against Vargas, and Pico." he stated.

Diego sighed.

"Physically I think she will recover. However, Doctor Hernandez said she still needs plenty of rest. Maybe in a few days, she will be ready to give you a statement." he replied.

DeSoto nodded.

"Well, maybe in few days, I'll ride out to your hacienda, and talk to Señorita Escalante. The sooner we get this trial over with, the better." he remarked earnestly.

Diego looked at DeSoto decidedly.

"As I said, Alcalde, Victoria has suffered a terrible ordeal. I doubt that she will feel up to having any visitors." he remarked.

DeSoto nodded. "I understand. In any case, Diego, keep me posted on her progress." he replied.

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

DeSoto sat back down in his chair, then looked up at Diego and Alejandro.

"De nada. Thank you for bringing me this evidence. I will lock this up in my safe, along with the money. Now if you don't mind, I have some work to do. Good day, gentlemen." he replied.

"De nada, Alcalde. Good day." replied Diego.

Diego and Alejandro turned, and walked out.

As they untied their horses from the hitching post, Alejandro looked at Diego anxiously.

"Diego, is there some reason why you aren't telling DeSoto, about Victoria's amnesia?" he asked in a hushed tone.

Diego looked at Alejandro with concern.

"I'm afraid that if DeSoto knew about her condition, he'll shorten Vargas's and Pico's sentence to just robbery, instead of kidnapping and robbery." he replied.

"But Diego, you just gave him the ransom note, and the knife and rag. Surely that would be enough evidence against them." he remarked earnestly.

Diego nodded. "You would think so! But it's obvious that DeSoto is intent on getting a statement as well. I just hope that I can hold him off long enough, until Victoria's memory returns. I hope that's soon." he replied anxiously.

Alejandro nodded, then pulled out his pocket watch, and looked at the time. He glanced up at Diego.

"So do I, Diego. Well, let's go have some lunch, then we'll go back to the hacienda and check on Victoria." he replied.

Diego nodded. "Good idea. However, the tavern won't seem the same, without Victoria." He sighed.

Alejandro nodded and sighed. "I know what you mean, son." He replied, giving Diego a sympathetic pat on the back.

As they walked their horses to the tavern, Alejandro's eyes brightened. He grabbed Diego by the arm and smiled. Diego looked up in surprise.

"Diego, we should bring Victoria to the tavern tomorrow. Maybe once she sees the tavern, it will help her remember." he stated.

Diego nodded and smiled. "You're right, father. That's a good idea. I did tell her last night, that she owns a tavern. Maybe once she sees it, she'll start to remember." he replied.

Alejandro nodded. "I'm sure she will." He replied.

As they walked into the tavern, Pilar walked up to them and smiled.

"Buenos días, Don Alejandro, and Don Diego. Have a seat, and I'll bring you something to drink. By the way, how is Victoria?" she asked.

Diego looked at her and smiled. "Buenos días, Pilar. Victoria is improving daily. Thank you for asking." he replied.

Pilar sighed, and smiled. "Gracias Dios! That's good to know. I hope she comes back soon. Tell her we miss her." She replied warmly.

Diego smiled. "I will. Thank you."

Pilar smiled, then hurried off to get their drinks. Alejandro and Diego found a table, then sat down.

Diego looked at Alejandro thoughtfully.

"Speaking of familiar things, I think I'll ask Pilar to pack some of Victoria's clothes, to take back to the hacienda with us. Maybe if she had her own clothes, that would help too." he remarked.

Alejandro nodded. "Good idea, Diego. I'm sure it would." he replied.

Soon Pilar brought their drinks, then Diego and Alejandro gave Pilar their order for lunch. Diego also asked Pilar to gather some of Victoria's clothes, to take back to the hacienda.

"Of course, Don Diego. I will be glad to pack some of Victoria's clothes for you. I'm sure she will be needing them." she replied amiably. Pilar asked Rosa to fix Alejandro's and Diego's lunch, while she packed Victoria's clothes. Rosa nodded, then hurried off to fix their lunch.

It was just a few minutes until lunch, as Victoria opened her eyes, then sat up in bed. Her head seemed to be feeling a little better, and the dizziness seemed to come and go, to a small degree. She threw back her covers, then slowly swung her legs over the side of the bed. As she gripped the sides of the bed, she released a weary sigh.

"Ok, Victoria, time to get up!" she said to herself. She slowly rose from the bed, and held onto the bed post, as she steadied herself. She slightly shook her head, then slowly walked toward the couch. She gave a sigh of relief, and smiled, as she put her hand on the arm of the couch.

"Well, that wasn't so bad." She said.

Just then, Maria came in with Victoria's lunch on a bed tray.

"Madre de Dios!" she gasped. "Victoria, what are you doing out of bed?" she scolded.

Victoria slowly turned and smiled at Maria.

"I have to get out of bed sometime. Besides, Diego promised to show me the hacienda, and I can't be in bed, when he comes back." she stated resolutely.

Maria smiled, and nodded. She sat the tray on the bed, then looked at Victoria.

"You're right!" she replied. "I'll get you a robe." She walked over to the large oak armoire' and took out a white ruffled cotton robe and helped Victoria put it on.

As Victoria buttoned the robe, she looked at it, and smiled.

"This is very pretty, Maria, thank you." she remarked. She stepped over to the couch, and sat down.

Maria nodded. "De nada. That used to be Dona de la Vega's robe. You're right, it is very pretty." She replied. She walked over and picked up the tray, and carried it over to Victoria.

"Here's your lunch, Victoria. When you're finished, I'll find you some clothes to wear. I'm sure Don Alejandro won't mind if you borrow a dress to wear." she stated.

Victoria took the tray, then began eating her lunch. She dabbed her mouth, then looked at Maria.

"The de la Vegas must be very rich!" she remarked.

Maria nodded. "Yes, they are. But they are very generous as well! They are always helping people who are less fortunate than they are. Don Alejandro and Don Diego, never turn away, anyone in need of help. Not only are they respected by the community, but they are loved as well." She remarked warmly.

Victoria nodded and smiled. She finished her lunch, then set the tray on a table nearby. She stood up and walked over to a picture of Diego's mother. She gazed at the beautiful dark-haired woman with the deep blue eyes, fair skin, and warm smile. As Maria made up Victoria's bed, she glanced over and saw Victoria studying the picture, and smiled.

"That's Don Diego's mother, Dona Elena Felicidad." remarked Maria.

Victoria smiled, and nodded. "She's beautiful! Diego looks like her. He said she died when he was very young. What did she die of?" she asked.

Maria shook her head. "I don't really know. I didn't come to work for the de la Vegas until after she died. Someone once said that it was an illness, that claimed her life. She was very young, when she died." she replied.

A somber look shadowed Victoria's face, as she shook her head.

"How sad." she replied remorsefully.

Maria nodded. "Yes, it is." She opened up the armoire' and took out a pale yellow dress, with ruffles around the bottom, and small white lace around the neck and shoulders. She held it up and showed it to Victoria.

"Here, Victoria, you can wear this for now." she said.

Victoria nodded. "It's very pretty." She remarked smiling.

Maria opened a drawer to a dresser, and took out a slip, some stockings, and undergarments, then lay them, and the dress, on the bed. She found some shoes that Victoria could wear, and set them by the bed.

"Here are some clothes for you to wear. If you need any help, just let me know." She stated.

"Gracias, Maria." replied Victoria.

"De nada." replied Maria.

Maria picked up the tray, then took it to the kitchen while Victoria dressed.

When Victoria had finished dressing, she walked over to the large oak mirror, and gazed at the beautiful dress she wore. A strange feeling came over her, as she looked at herself in the mirror.

'I don't remember wearing anything like this, before." She remarked gazing at the dress once more. From what Diego had told her about her family, she had a feeling, that her background, was quite different, than his. Yet his attitude toward her, was not pretentious, or demeaning. On the contrary, he was very caring, attentive, gentle, and unassuming. There was something else she sensed about him, as well. Beneath that gentle exterior, she sensed an inner strength, a passion that burned inside him, that he seemed to keep hidden from her, as well as others. She sighed, and slightly blinked, as she shook herself from her musing, then strolled out the door.

As Victoria wandered about the house, she gazed at all the beautiful things she saw. There was a small marble bust sitting on the bookshelf, beautiful handmade ceramic plates decorating the walls, a marble statuary gracing the entrance, as you entered the hacienda. There was also beautiful landscape paintings, and portraits hanging on the walls. As she walked into the library, she saw a pretty crystal decanter and glasses, setting on a silver tray, on a marble tabletop. There was even a beautiful baby grand piano near the library.

As she strolled over to the piano and touched the keys, she even heard a familiar tune playing in her mind. 'What was the name of that song?' she thought. Even the furniture had a look of elegance about it. Beautiful silk brocade couches and chairs with soft cushions on the backs and seats. The plates she ate her lunch from, were beautiful white porcelain china, as were the cups and saucers. Her eating utensils were silver, with intricate patterns on the handles. The napkins too, were soft linen lined with lace.

Victoria gazed at the bookshelves, and eyed the rich leather-bound books with the gold leaf lettering on the covers. Some of the names of the books sounded familiar, and some didn't, but they were all very pretty. As she looked down at the floor, she gazed at the beautiful carpets, with their detailed woven designs, and the polished marble floors they covered. Yet despite all this elegance and wealth, Victoria felt a sense of warmth, and love, as well as kindness and as Maria had said, generosity.

Victoria wandered over to the silk brocade couch, near the fireplace, and sat down. As she gazed about the room, she had a feeling that she had been here, many times before. Diego had said that they had grown up together, and that their families were good friends. Maybe that's why she had that feeling of belonging. A feeling of being a part of this family.

She looked around and saw Felipe walking into the library. She looked at him and smiled.

"Hola Felipe." She greeted. Felipe nodded and smiled.

Victoria looked at him oddly. She thought that it was unusual that he did not respond to her greeting. 'Maybe he's just shy.' she thought. Felipe pointed to the decanter of water and then to her. Victoria shook her head.

"I don't understand." she replied. Felipe made a sign 'to drink' then pointed to the decanter again. Victoria nodded.

"Oh, you want to know if I want something to drink?" she asked. Felipe nodded, and smiled. Victoria shook her head.

"No thank you." she smiled. She suddenly realized that Felipe could not speak. She gazed thoughtfully, at the young boy, with the dark brown hair, dark expressive eyes, and gentle features, and smiled. There was something about him as well, that told her that he had always been a part of this family.

Another memory flashed in her mind as she gazed about the room. There was something that Diego had said, when he was telling her about what had happened to her father. He had told her that he had gone to Devil's Fortress to help save her father, and then later she and her brother Ramon had arrived.

But there was something he that had either left out, or didn't tell her. She leaned back against the soft cushioned couch, and gazed thoughtfully at the fireplace. In her mind, she saw faces of people who looked familiar, but she couldn't remember who they were. One face however, seemed to stand out among the rest. Zorro. She could see this beautiful castle with a man in uniform, and a young girl in a beautiful gown. There were two other men she didn't recognize. A short stout man with dark hair, eyes, and mustache wearing a blue uniform. He was with another man who wore the clothing of a wealthy caballero, with blond hair, beard, and mustache. She could see herself with a young boy, helping an old man, who was sick and dying. 'Ramon and my father.' She thought. Yet of all the faces she saw, she didn't see Don Diego. Instead, she saw Zorro. 'Why was Zorro there, and not Don Diego?' she thought. 'He said he had gone to the fortress, yet, he wasn't there. I wonder.' she thought. She was briefly interrupted from her pondering, as she felt a gentle hand on her shoulder. She looked around and saw Felipe, pointing to the foyer. Don Diego, and Don Alejandro, had just returned from town. Victoria stood up, as Felipe motioned for her to follow. She smiled, and followed Felipe.

As Diego and Alejandro walked toward the Library, Diego's eyes slightly widened, as he gazed at Victoria, wearing that beautiful dress, and smiled.

"Victoria, you look lovely! I didn't expect to see you out of bed so soon." he remarked warmly.

"Neither did I." added Alejandro smiling.

Victoria smiled as she looked at Diego. "Gracias, Don Diego." she replied. She looked at Alejandro and Diego. "I told Maria that I couldn't stay in bed, forever. Besides Diego, you promised to show me the hacienda. Oh, I hope you don't mind if I wear this dress. Maria picked it out for me." She added.

Alejandro shook his head, and smiled.

"Not at all, Victoria. It looks just as lovely on you, as it did on my wife, Elena." He remarked.

Diego nodded in agreement, and smiled. "Yes, it does."

Victoria gazed at Diego and smiled.

"Diego, there is a picture of your mother in that room where I am staying. She was very beautiful. You look like her, Diego." she remarked.

Diego slightly blushed and smiled.

"Thank you Victoria. My father always thought that I looked like her too. You're right, she was a very beautiful woman. She was also kind and generous as well." he remarked.

Victoria nodded. "That's what Maria said about you and your father. That you were very kind and generous people. Somehow, I know she's right." she replied warmly.

Alejandro looked at Diego and smiled. He looked at Victoria compassionately.

"With so many people who are destitute, and oppressed, we feel that we should help them, in any way we can. Hopefully, we can give them some relief from the burdens that they bear." He remarked earnestly.

Victoria nodded. "You are truly an honorable man, Don Alejandro, and you as well, Don Diego." She replied sincerely as she gazed at the two men, and smiled.

Alejandro smiled. "Gracias, Victoria."

Diego smiled as well. "Gracias."

Victoria nodded and smiled. "De nada."

Diego looked at Victoria and smiled.

"By the way, Victoria, I took the liberty of asking Pilar to pack some clothes for you. She put them in this suitcase she gave us. I thought that maybe, if you had your own clothes, that would help you remember." He stated.

Victoria looked at him curiously.

"Pilar?" she asked.

Diego nodded. "Yes, she is one of the girls that you hired, to help out at the tavern. By the way, she sends her regards."

Victoria nodded. "Thank you, Diego. That was very thoughtful of you. And of Pilar to send my clothes. She sounds like a very sweet girl." she replied.

Diego sighed. "You're welcome, Victoria." He turned to Felipe. "Felipe, take Victoria's clothes to her room, por favor." he said. He handed Felipe the suitcase. Felipe nodded, then took it to her room.

After Felipe left, Victoria looked at Diego, curiously.

"Diego, is there something wrong with Felipe?" she asked looking concerned.

Diego looked at Victoria earnestly. It was obvious that her amnesia had blocked out the memory of Felipe's condition as well.

"Physically and mentally, there is nothing wrong with him. The only thing that is wrong, is that he is deaf, and mute." he stated.

Victoria's eyes slightly widened. "He is deaf as well? But he understood what I said, and what you said, as well." she remarked.

Diego nodded. "That's because he is very good at reading lips. He is a very bright, and sensitive young boy. He is as competent or more so than most people, and smarter than some, if you count our Alcalde." He chuckled.

Victoria looked at Diego curiously. "Your Alcalde?" she asked.

Diego shook his head. "That's another story." he smiled. He looked at Victoria amiably.

"If you're feeling up to it, I'll show you around the hacienda." he stated.

Victoria smiled. "I am feeling a little better. Maybe the fresh air, will do me good." she remarked.

Diego nodded. "I'm sure it will."

Alejandro looked at Diego, and smiled.

"Why don't you show Victoria the garden. I have some work to do in my study, so take your time." he stated.

Diego smiled. "Wonderful idea, father. I'm sure Victoria would like that." he replied.

Victoria smiled. "Yes, I would."

Alejandro smiled. "Buena! Enjoy the garden, Victoria."

Victoria nodded. "Thank you, I will."

Alejandro smiled, then strolled off to his study.

Diego directed Victoria's attention to a side door that led to the garden, then he and Victoria strolled out the door.

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