Fox of a Different Color

Parte Uno

Christina Smith

Alcalde Ramon sat on his horse and watched his lancers search for Zorro. He shook his head at the situation. He could call off the search, but he decided to punish his lancers by sweating under the Los Angeles sun.

"Sergeant!" he called.

"Sí, mi alcalde?" Sergeant Mendoza lumbered up to him.

"I'm returning to the pueblo," he announced. "Keep searching for Zorro. I want your report on my desk this evening."

"Sí, mi alcalde," Sergeant Mendoza saluted and turned to his lancers. "Keep searching!"

Ramon smiled at the sergeant's discomfort. Serve them right for losing Zorro. He pulled the reins and led his horse out of the clearing. As he rode through the woods, he kept a look out for Zorro and tried to figure a way to catch him. A noise caught his attention and he saw a real fox digging in the ground.

To catch a fox, you must think like a fox, he mused.

A flash of movement came from the ground and the fox was behind it. The small procession was headed towards the alcalde. His horse stomped at the pair, then reared as they ran under his feet.

The alcalde didn't have time to react and fell from his saddle, hitting the ground hard. He caught a glimpse of the fox before he lost consciousness.

The alcalde looked up at the looming figure of Sergeant Mendoza. He groaned and closed his eyes.

"Alcalde?"

"Yes?"

"Are you feeling well?"

"Yes."

"Your horse came into the clearing without you. We followed the trail and found you here. You must have fallen off your horse and hit your head."

"Brilliant deduction," the alcalde mumbled.

"What alcalde? Did you say something?"

"Get me up."

"You heard him. Help him up."

Two lancers grabbed the alcalde and stood him up. He groaned as pain stabbed the back of his head. He gingerly touched his head as soon as he was free. His fingers probed his fair and found a knot. He winced at it's discovery.

"Alcalde?"

"I'm fine. I just have a bump on my head."

"Oh."

"Let's go. We won't find Zorro today."

"Sí, mi alcalde."

The sergeant had the alcalde's horse and helped him up. The alcalde looked around before riding off. He thought he should remember something, but nothing stuck out. He motioned the lancers forward. A fox watched them leave from the trees then resumed it's hunt.

Zorro walked into the secret lab. Felipe was reviewing an experiment Diego had left. Zorro coughed and Felipe turned around. He smiled shyly as Zorro moved past him and checked the progress. He nodded and started removing his clothes.

"You shouldn't have to worry about the alcalde while my father and I are gone. He should be to embarrassed for a few days to try anything. I'll be back by then."

Felipe nodded.

"I better get upstairs and finish packing. Don't forget to keep an eye on this experiment. It's pretty delicate. I've left notes in case anything should happen."

Felipe nodded and they left the cave. Less than an hour later, Diego and Alejandro were off on their journey. Felipe retired to the cave to take care of Tornado and read Diego's notes on his current experiment. Whether it was the late hour or the stillness of the cave, Felipe didn't know, but he was sound asleep in no time.

The alcalde got ready for bed. The knot on his head was still tender and he grumbled about the pain. He was more upset about losing Zorro especially after today's encounter. Luis had no doubts that he would find a way to settle the score with Zorro. When he did, the fox had better watch his step. He blew out the candle and got into bed. As he drifted off to sleep an idea slowly crept into his brain.

Luis Ramon woke up early. He was excited about his latest plan. If things worked perfectly, then by this evening, Zorro would be his.

"Sergeant Mendoza!" the alcalde called outside his office.

Minutes later a bleary-eyed sergeant stood in front of his desk.

"Mi alcalde?" he yawned as he saluted.

"I have a plan to capture Zorro."

Sergeant Mendoza slumped a little. "Are you going to raise taxes - again?"

"No," the alcalde smiled.

"Are you going to create new taxes - again?"

"No."

"Are you going to arrest someone - again?"

"Yes."

"Are you - " the sergeant stopped as the alcalde's answer registered in his head.

He looked at the alcalde and saw him sitting with his fingers together in front of his chin. He smiled slyly at the sergeant.

"Who?"

"You."

"Me?" Sergeant Mendoza became worried.

"And a few lancers."

"Why?"

"Treason."

"Mi, alcalde, I have always been loyal to Spain and California."

"No, no. It's just a ruse to capture Zorro. Zorro is bound to show up to right this wrong. When he does, we'll be there to get him. Pick the lancers to be arrested with you."

"Are you sure. After yesterday - "

"Yesterday has passed," the alcalde fought to keep his temper in check. "Now listen carefully as I explain the plan."

Sergeant Mendoza sat in the tavern with three other lancers. They looked uncomfortable, particularly the sergeant. He looked around the tavern before speaking.

"The alcalde is sure mean," he said as Victoria put a pitcher in front of him.

"," she nodded, but eyed him suspiciously. He'd been acting strange ever since he walked in.

"Look at all the trouble he's caused you and other people."

"True, but if it weren't for Zorro - "

"Yes, Zorro. Zorro has saved so many people, so many times. Yet he fights alone."

"He doesn't seem to do too badly by himself," someone said.

"Yes, but perhaps he would like some help," the sergeant offered.

"From what I've seen, he doesn't need help," the same person said. "Why, sergeant, looking to lend Zorro a hand?"

The room erupted into laughter.

"Yes, maybe I am," the sergeant said, but no one could hear him. "I said I am."

The room fell silent.

"Sergeant, you don't mean that?" Victoria asked.

Sergeant Mendoza gulped. "Yes I do. I mean we do," he indicated the other lancers. "We talked it about it and have decided we want to join Zorro."

"Sergeant, don't be ridiculous."

"I am very serious."

"Sergeant, what your saying sounds like - "

"Treason!"

The alclade stood in the doorway, eyes locked on the sergeant.

"Alcalde," Victoria quickly jumped in. "I'm sure he doesn't meant it. Right, sergeant?"

Sergeant Mendoza looked at Victoria, then at the alcalde. "I meant every word."

"Then I know a nice little place where you can wait for Zorro. Lancers!"

Several lancers walked in.

"Arrest these four for treason."

"Alcalde!" Victoria screamed. "You can't do this."

"I can and will. The laws on treason are very specific, so is the punishment - death!"

"No! Don't worry Sergeant Mendoza, Zorro will see you don't die."

"No, Victoria, it's better that we die so Zorro can ride free."

"Don't give me sentiments," the alcalde growled. "Take them away."

The alcalde left after the sergeant and lancers were removed. People in the tavern were too stunned to move, Victoria looked around then followed the alcalde outside.

Felipe rode into the pueblo and looked at the list one more time. He then looked back for a particular store. Diego had mentioned a book would be coming from England sometime this week and he wanted Felipe to inquire about it. A perfect reason to get Felipe out of the hacienda for a few hours.

He saw a crowd around Victoria's tavern and started to worry. His eyes grew wide as he saw Sergeant Mendoza and a few other lancers being led away.

"You won't get away with this," he heard Victoria say. "Zorro will stop you."

"Then he better hurry. They'll be executed tomorrow morning."

"Alcalde?"

"As I said before, the laws are very strict when it comes to treason. I can carry out the punishment as I see fit."

"But without a trial?"

"Traitors don't get trials."

The alcalde left and Victoria lookd around helpless. She spotted Felipe and ran over to him.

"Felipe! Get Alejandro and Diego!"

Felipe looked at her confused.

"Diego. Alejandro. Bring them here." She said slowly.

Felipe nodded and started to ride back to the hacienda, then he stopped.

"What is it?" she asked.

Felipe shook his head no then pointed in the northwest direction.

"They left for their trip," she said.

Felipe nodded.

"Oh, okay," Victoria slowly turned and walked away.

Felipe looked around trying to figure out what happened. He guessed everything by hearing bits and pieces of the conversations around him. When he had enough information, he turned back to the hacienda.

On the ride back, Felipe grew concerned. Why did Diego have to go now? he wondered. Then he reminded himself that Diego couldn't have possibly known any of this was going to happen.

Felipe rode up to the gate and took care of his horse. As soon as he was done, he stole away to the secret cave. He eyed Zorro's outfit, but the idea was too absurd. Felipe had only begun his fencing lessons. The alcalde's worst lancer could easily defeat him, even drunk.

No way would Zorro ride tonight and four innocent lancers would die tomorrow, he thought sadly.

Felipe had been pacing the small cave. The sun had just gone down and he had made up his mind. He walked over to where Zorro's outfit hung.

The alcalde looked at the jail cell and smiled. This was his best plan yet. No way could Zorro resist this. Suddenly, the alcalde yawned.

"The day must have been rougher than I thought," he told himself. "Lancer."

"Sí, mi alcalde," a young lancer walked up to him.

"I'm going to retire to my quarters now. Don't wake me unless Zorro is here. Am I understood?"

"Sí, mi alcalde," the lancer saluted.

"Good," the alcalde gave the jail cell one last look before walking into his office.

Felipe looked at himself in the mirror. He frowned at the image he saw. Zorro's outfit was definitely too big for him, but something had to be done. He hoped that perhaps the sight alone would scare the lancers away, but it was a small hope. As he dressed Tornado for the night's ride. But before he was done, the stallion became restless. Felipe frowned again. This was going to be harder than he thought.

He led the great horse outside, but before he could mount, Tornado ran off. Felipe watched as the horse disappeared and wondered what he would do next.

Victoria watched the alcalde's office. Her anger had been growing ever since he arrested the lancers. It reached it's boiling point when she saw the office lights go out.

"He's going to sleep?!" she threw a towel on a table.

The few patrons in her tavern jumped. Victoria didn't get mad often, but when she did, people were afraid. They eyed her cautiously as she stood at the door.

"Why not?" one asked, taking a drink. "It's not like he hasn't had people in his jail before."

She glared at the speaker and he swallowed his wine hard.

"Four of his lancers which he plans to execute tomorrow?" she asked. "Honestly, you should be ashamed of yourself, Jose."

"What did I do?"

"You were making fun of Sergeant Mendoza and his men. When the alcalde came in, not one of you lifted a finger to defend them."

"But Zorro - "

"Oh? What if Zorro can't come tonight?"

"Don't be ridiculous. He'll come. He always does. And I'll be the first to drink to Zorro's daring rescue."

Jose lifted his glass, but didn't drink from it.

"Are you going to drink it or just look at it?" Victoria asked.

Jose pointed to the door way and Victoria turned around.

"Glad to see I'm so well regarded," Zorro replied.

Den
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