Victoria, Alejandro and Diego pulled up their chairs, then sat down. Victoria proceeded to tell DeSoto her account of what happened. As she spoke, he wrote down every detail and comment she reported. After they were finished, DeSoto looked up at Victoria.
"Well Seņorita, this is a very detailed account. Along with the evidence that Don Diego brought in, and your statement of course, this should be enough to send Vargas and Pico to prison for at least fifteen years. Robbery, assault, and kidnapping are very serious charges! You have done the right thing Seņorita, by giving me your statement." He stated earnestly.
Diego spoke up.
"Speaking of doing the right thing, Alcalde, don't you think you should give Victoria her money back? After all, she did give you her statement, and you do have the ransom note, and knife. I think it's only fair, that you at least return her money." He remarked resolutely. "After all, 20,000 pesos, is a lot of money!" he added.
DeSoto sat back in his chair, and stroked his beard in thought.
"I was planning on using that money for evidence in the trial, but considering as you say, I have her statement, and the other proof which you brought in, I think the Seņorita can have her money back." He replied decidedly.
Victoria smiled as she looked at Diego.
"Thank you, Diego, and thank you Alcalde." She replied, looking at DeSoto.
"De nada." He replied. He rose from his desk, then walked over to his safe. He gave the dial on the combination a few turns left and right, then opened the safe. He lifted out the bag of money, then handed it to Victoria, then shut the door to his safe.
Victoria opened the bag, and looked at the money.
"Gracias Dios, it's all here!" she smiled.
DeSoto looked at her sternly.
"Of course it's all there! There's no reason why it shouldn't be!" he remarked.
Victoria looked at him earnestly.
"I was just making sure, Alcalde."
Victoria closed the sack, then stood up.
"If that's all, Alcalde, then I would like to get back to the tavern." she replied.
DeSoto stood up as did Alejandro, and Diego.
"Thank you again, Seņorita for coming in. You can rest assured, that you won't be seeing those men for quite a long time!" DeSoto stated decidedly.
"Good! Thank you again, Alcalde."
DeSoto nodded. "De nada." He replied.
As Victoria, Alejandro, and Diego were about to leave, Victoria turned, and looked at DeSoto.
"One more thing, Alcalde..." she began.
DeSoto looked at Victoria curiously.
"What's that, Seņorita?" he asked.
She looked at DeSoto sternly.
"Instead of governing people by tyranny and oppression, you should govern them with compassion and understanding. These are good people Alcalde, and there's nothing that they won't do for you, as long as they are treated openly and fairly. If you do that, then who knows, maybe you'll get more respect!" she stated.
DeSoto's face turned red. "Are you trying to tell me how to run this pueblo, Seņorita?" he asked angrily.
Diego quickly interceded.
"Pardon the Seņorita, Alcalde. She's just showing concern for the people of our pueblo. She may be outspoken, but she is truly a concerned citizen and fiercely loyal as well!" he replied. "By the way, she does have a point!"
DeSoto nodded in agreement.
"Fierce is the operative word! You're lucky I'm in a good mood today. Otherwise, I would have thrown the Seņorita in jail, for her 'outspokenness. ' As it is, she has been through enough already. I will take her comment into consideration." He replied earnestly.
Diego sighed in relief.
"Gracias, Alcalde. Good day!"
Diego, Victoria, and Alejandro turned and walked out.
As Felipe, Alejandro, Diego, and Victoria walked their horses to the tavern, Diego glanced over at Victoria and smiled. He was glad to see the Victoria that he knew and loved returning to normal. He loved her spirit and passion, even if it did get her into trouble sometimes. But he loved it nonetheless, and he loved her.
The moment they walked into the tavern, all the young girls who worked in the tavern, quickly ran up to Victoria, and warmly greeted her with hugs and kisses. Victoria was somewhat taken aback by the overwhelming response at her absence, but she returned their greetings just as warmly. While she was occupied with her girls, Alejandro, Diego, and Felipe, found a table, and sat down.
Victoria's memory of the names of some of her girls was a bit hazy, but she was grateful, that she at least recognized their faces. She even recognized most of her patrons as she gazed about the tavern. As she walked into the kitchen, all the smells of the food cooking, and the sounds of people laughing and talking seemed to open up a floodgate of memories. Diego was right. Once she was in the tavern, everything came rushing back.
She quickly put her money in a safe place, then strolled over to the table where Diego, Alejandro, and Felipe were sitting. She gazed at Diego, and smiled.
"Diego, you were right about coming to the tavern. I remember everything now! The good as well as the bad. But most of all the good things." she said.
Diego looked at her and smiled.
"I'm glad, Victoria." He replied, warmly.
Victoria looked at Diego thoughtfully.
"Diego, could I speak to you for a moment?" she asked.
Diego stood up and looked at Alejandro.
"Excuse for a moment, father, Victoria has something she wants to tell me." he remarked.
Alejandro nodded, and smiled.
Diego looked at Victoria with concern.
"Is there something wrong, Victoria?" he asked.
Victoria shook her head.
"No Diego, everything is fine. There's something I wanted to talk to you about." She replied. She turned, and started walking toward the stairs. Diego followed her. He looked at Victoria curiously.
"Victoria, where are you going?" he asked.
Victoria motioned for him to follow her.
"You'll see, Diego. Just follow me." She said with a smug look on her face.
As they walked up the stairs, they finally came to Victoria's room. She opened the door, and motioned for Diego to come in.
"Come in, Diego." She said smiling, with a discerning look.
An abashed look, appeared on Diego's face.
"Victoria, I hardly think..."
Victoria shook her head, and smiled.
"Really Diego, you've been in my room several times. I can't believe you're being so modest." She replied with a wink.
Diego shrugged, and walked in. Victoria quietly shut the door. Diego turned, and gave Victoria a disconcerted look.
"What's this all about, Victoria?" he asked curiously.
Victoria smiled. "You'll see." She walked over to her jewelry box, and opened up a small drawer, then took out the ring that he had given her. She looked at it, and smiled. She turned and walked over to Diego and showed him the ring.
"Speaking of memories, I was just teasing you about this ring." She said warmly as she gazed into his eyes.
"I know." he replied smiling.
She handed him the ring, and looked at him sincerely.
"Diego, I meant what I said about being glad that you have always been my friend. You have always been there for me, giving me advice, helping me when I was in trouble. Many times you have saved my life, and protected me from harm, not only as Zorro, but as yourself as well. I have a feeling that I have always been in love with you. I guess it took something like this, to make me realize just how much I do love you. Somehow I've always had this feeling that you were Zorro as well, but I guess I was just too blind to see the real man behind the mask. And now that I know that it was your spirit, and passion that made you decide to become Zorro, and help the people of this pueblo, I love you all the more for it." She stated passionately.
Diego gazed at her as she spoke.
"I love you too, Victoria. I'm sorry that I had to deceive you, but as I said, it was for your safety. You've been my friend as well, and you have also saved my life, many times. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for you, Victoria. You have always been there for me as well. I would never have been able to do the things that I've done, if it hadn't been for you. Everything I've done, I owe it to you. You even risked your own life, to save mine." He replied ardently.
Victoria looked at him earnestly.
"And I would do it again, if it meant saving you, to help our pueblo. You have risked your life to save mine many times, so I guess now, we're even." she replied.
Diego nodded as he looked at her thoughtfully.
"Yes, I suppose we are." A solemn look came over his face. "Victoria, when you took that bullet, that was meant for me, I thought I had lost you. If you had died, my life would have been empty without you. Don't ever do that again! You mean more to me, than you'll ever know. I would be devastated, if anything should ever happen to you!" he replied passionately.
Victoria hugged him tight. "I promise, Diego! And I want you to promise never to take anymore chances as well!" she replied earnestly.
Diego hugged her and smiled. "I promise!"
As they parted from their embrace, Victoria looked at Diego sincerely.
"Diego, would you do me a favor?" she asked, as she looked into his eyes.
Diego smiled. "Anything for you, querida!" he replied gazing into her eyes.
"Remember when you were Zorro, and rescued me from those bandits, and brought me to the cave?" she asked.
Diego nodded. "Yes, I remember. I brought you there, after those bandits had stolen your money. I hid you in the cave, so that they wouldn't find you." He replied.
Victoria nodded and smiled. "Yes, I remember." She looked at him thoughtfully. "Diego, could you ask me again, what you asked me in the cave?" she asked, as a soft blush colored her cheeks.
Diego smiled, and nodded. "I would be honored, mi preciosa!" he replied, as he pressed a tender kiss to her hand. He led her over to a chair, and motioned for her to sit down. Victoria sat down, in the soft cushioned chair, and gazed into his eyes as he kneeled before her, and looked passionately into her eyes. He took her hand and gently slid the ring on her finger.
"Let this ring be a symbol of my eternal love for you. Victoria, will you marry me?" he asked gazing into her eyes.
Victoria felt her heart pounding as the tears welled in her eyes. She gazed into his eyes and smiled. She looked at the beautiful ring upon her finger, then looked at Diego.
"Yes! Definitely, and positively yes!" she replied smiling. She wrapped her arms around his neck and hugged him. Diego wrapped his arms around her and held her close. They held each other in their tender embrace, for a long time, feeling the warmth, security, and love flow through them, and knowing that nothing would ever come between them, again. When they parted from their embrace, Victoria looked at Diego, and smiled.
"Thank you, Diego. I remember that day, like it was yesterday! I just wanted to hear you ask me again, now that I'm wide awake. Now that I hear you say those words again, I know that we will always be together forever! I love you, Diego!" she replied passionately.
Diego wrapped his arms around her and pressed a tender kiss to her lips. As they slowly parted from their tender embrace, he looked into her eyes and smiled.
"We will, Victoria, forever and ever! I love you too!"