Secret Passage of Time

Parte Quatro: Palomarez

Nancy Smith

Felipe was still a bit shaken from his encounter with Moreno. As he took a drink of his juice, he occasionally glanced toward the entrance of the tavern, as if he expected Moreno to return.

Diego rested his hand on Felipe's arm, and looked at him, with concern.

"Felipe, are you all right?" he asked.

Felipe slightly smiled, and nodded.

Todd looked at Diego with a big smile. "Don Diego, you really should have seen Felipe! That was so cool, the way he socked that Palomarez in the eye, and knocked him down! It was just like in a movie I saw, one time!" he commented, excitedly. Felipe slightly blushed.

Alice, noticing Felipe's slight embarrassment, put her hand on Todd's shoulder and looked at him, sternly.

"Todd, leave Felipe alone. I think there's been enough excitement for one day!" she commented.

"But Aunt Alice..." Todd replied, in rebuttal.

"Todd!" Another stern look from Alice, and Todd was quiet for the moment. He took a drink of his juice and sighed. He looked at Felipe, ruefully.

"Sorry Felipe."

Felipe patted Todd on the back and smiled. 'That's OK,' he signed.

Diego looked at Victoria thoughtfully. "Victoria, who did you say this man was?"

"Fernando Palomarez. At least, that's what he wrote in the registry book," she replied, as she poured herself another glass of juice.

"Fernando Palomarez...that name doesn't sound familiar," Diego stated, putting his hand on his chin in thought.

Victoria looked at Diego, earnestly. "I have a feeling that's not his real name, Diego," she stated.

Diego looked at her, somewhat surprised. "Oh? What makes you say that?" he asked, looking at her attentively.

Victoria slightly shrugged. "I don't know, Diego. There was something about the way he acted. He even had a smirk on his face when he signed his name. I don't know. There was just something about him..." Her voice trailed off, as she shook her head with a worried look.

Diego took a drink of his juice, then set his glass down. He looked at Felipe, thoughtfully. "Well, whoever he is, it's obvious that you made him pretty angry," he remarked with concern. Felipe nodded in agreement.

Diego slowly rose from the table. "Well, I think we should take the children to see Padre Benitez. I'm sure he would be very happy to see you," he said, as he smiled at Todd and Allison.

"Padre Benitez?" asked Ted, curiously.

Allison broke in. "He's that really nice priest who hid us in the church, the first time we were here," she replied, smiling.

"He hid you in the church? What for?" asked Ted, looking surprised.

Todd spoke up. "The Alcalde, who was here the first time, thought we were spies and wanted to arrest us," he stated, with a frown.

Ted shook his head and laughed. "Spies? That's ridiculous!"

Allison chuckled. "I know! Pretty silly, huh!" she remarked. Ted and Alice nodded in agreement.

Alejandro looked at everyone earnestly. "Well, I guess we should be going. We don't want to keep the good padre waiting." he remarked.

They rose from the table and thanked Victoria for the juice.

"De nada!" she said, warmly.

They said good-bye and left the tavern. As the de la Vegas and their guests walked across the plaza to the church, Carlos Moreno watched them intently, as he stood beside a vendor's cart, eating an apple.

'There goes that Felipe, and his little friend! Can't wait to get my hands on those two,' he thought to himself. He finished his apple, then threw it to the ground. He wiped his mouth on his sleeve, and walked back to the tavern.

Padre Benitez, was obviously happy to see the children, as he smiled and gave them a warm hug. He quickly ushered them into the church, and directed them to sit in one of the pews while they talked. Diego introduced Ted and Alice to the kind padre, and told him that they had come with the children on their trip, this time. Padre Benitez smiled in acknowledgement, and nodded.

"So good to see you again, Todd and Allison. And it's very nice to meet you, Seņor and Seņora Bennett," he greeted, turning to their aunt and uncle.

As they visited with the padre for a few hours, Todd and Allison told Padre Benitez all about what they had been doing, over the past three years. They also told him, for the first time, that they had traveled back in time. The priest's mouth dropped open as he froze.

"I know it's hard to believe, Padre," Don Diego said softly, "but it's true."

Ted nodded. "It's hard even for me to believe. For all of us."

Padre Benitez shook his head. "Well," he remarked, "I can't believe how much Todd and Allison have grown since I last saw them!" He chuckled uneasily as he spoke.

As he had done with the children three years before, the padre told Ted and Alice all about his work at the mission church. He even took the couple on a tour of the church, as he had previously done with Todd and Allison. Being a history professor, Ted was very impressed. He told Padre Benitez all about his work at the university in 2001. Padre Benitez was very impressed with Ted's work, as well.

After a few hours, they said good-bye to Padre Benitez and headed back to the tavern. As they walked toward the tavern, DeSoto walked up to them, just as they were about to enter the tavern.

"Ah, buenas tardes, Don Alejandro, Don Diego, children." He eyed Ted, and Alice, curiously. "I don't believe I've had the pleasure." he remarked, smiling at them.

Diego spoke up. "Alcalde, this is Ted and Alice Bennett. The children's aunt and uncle," he stated.

DeSoto nodded, and extended his hand. "I'm glad to meet you! I'm Ignacio DeSoto, Alcalde of this charming pueblo. I'm glad that you are reunited with your niece and nephew. I'm sure that you were terribly worried about them." he commented, earnestly.

"Yes, we were!" said Ted, shaking DeSoto's hand. "Nice to meet you, Alcalde. This is my wife, Alice." he said, nodding to Alice.

"Ah, Seņora Bennett, nice to meet you," he remarked with a smile, as he slightly bowed to Alice. Alice smiled and nodded.

"If there is anything I can do to be of service, let me know!" DeSoto said, smiling.

"Thank you, Alcalde." said Ted, smiling.

"Well, as you can see, your niece and nephew are in excellent hands. Don Diego took very good care of them in your absence," DeSoto stated, earnestly.

Tedd nodded and smiled at Diego. "And, we are very grateful, too!"

"I'm sure you are. Well, I have much work to do. Again, it was very nice to meet you." he remarked, nodding to Ted and Alice. "Good day." he stated, smiling. He turned, and walked back to his office.

After DeSoto was out of hearing range, Allison softly spoke up. "He's the one who found us, when we first arrived," she stated.

Alice nodded. "Oh. He seems rather nice."

Todd spoke up. "He may seem nice, but he's just as bad as the other Alcalde. Diego and Seņorita Escalante say that he oppresses the people, just like the other Alcalde did," he remarked, sadly.

Alice shook her head. "That's a shame!" she stated, sympathetically.

"Yes it is, Seņora!" Diego replied, ruefully, nodding in agreement. He gazed pensively at the Alcalde's office, then slightly blinked. "Well, Todd and Allison, why don't we go in and say good-bye to Victoria? Then we will head back to the hacienda," he said, smiling. Todd and Allison nodded.

Alejandro glanced at his new boots. "Yes, I'm anxious to try on these new boots I ordered from the bootmaker, too," he stated.

As they walked into the tavern, Diego happened to notice a well-dressed stranger with a scar on his face and a black eye, sitting at a table in the back of the tavern. He was staring at them with a very intense look on his face. Diego put his hand on Felipe's shoulder and looked at him.

"Felipe, is that Seņor Palomarez, the man you fought with?" he asked in a hushed tone. Felipe slightly nodded.

Diego briefly eyed Palomarez intently, as he quickly studied the features of his face. He returned his attention to his father and their guests.

The children, and their aunt and uncle, said good-bye to Victoria, as did Diego and Alejandro. As they walked toward the door, Diego noticed that Palomarez occasionally glanced at them while they were there. An uneasy feeling flowed through him, as they walked out the door. 'Tonight, Zorro rides,' thought Diego.

Before dinner, Todd and Allison played some more classical music on their MP3 player, for Diego and Alejandro. Then they played some jazz music for their aunt and uncle. Ted and Alice danced to some of the jazz songs, and showed Diego and Felipe a few dance steps, too. Alejandro just sat and watched in amazement. Allison and Todd played some country music and did a dance routine for the de la Vegas.

When dinner was ready, Diego, Felipe, and Alejandro applauded Allison and Todd's dance routine, and Ted and Alice's dancing, too. They turned off their music, then ate dinner.

That night, everyone decided to go to bed early. It had been a long and stressful day, especially for Ted and Alice. They weren't quite used to this idea of time travel, and it would take some time for them to get their bearings.

It was very late, and everyone had gone to bed. That is, except for Diego. The malevolent look in Palomarez's eyes was enough to make anyone' s blood run cold. Having dealt with so many criminals, Diego knew that look all too well. It was obvious that this man was not to be trusted. And considering what Victoria had told him made him even more suspicious.

He pressed the hidden panel on the mantle of the fireplace, and quickly ducked inside the cave. He donned his Zorro outfit, then readied Toronado for a quick ride to the pueblo. 'I've got to find out who this Palomarez is,' he thought.

As he rode through the gates of the pueblo, Zorro trotted Toronado to the back of the cuartel, where it was dark. He reined in Toronado beside a wall, then took out his whip, and lashed it around a wooden pole that jutted out from the awning. He gave a sharp tug at his whip, making sure it was secure, then quickly climbed up the leather braid to the roof. He gave a sharp jerk of his whip as he loosened it from the pole, then quickly retrieved it.

As he quietly made his way across the rooftop, he suddenly heard voices inside the Alcalde's, office. He pressed himself against the tiled roof, and gently lifted the lid on the skylight. When he looked in, he happened to see Palomarez talking to DeSoto.

"Seņor Moreno...what happened to your eye?" DeSoto asked, with a slight smirk on his face.

"None of your business!" Moreno snapped, slightly rubbing his cheekbone. "Don't forget, the ship will be arriving two days early. I just want to make sure that you're going to be there for the delivery," he stated in firm tone.

DeSoto nodded. "Oh yes. I definitely plan to be there! The sooner I'm out of this stinking pueblo, the better! Once I get my hands on that gold and those documents, I'm going to be a very rich man!" he chuckled, in a devilish tone. Moreno narrowed his eyes and cast a vicious gaze at DeSoto.

"Don't you mean, WE, Alcalde?!!" he asked in a stern voice.

DeSoto inwardly shuddered, as he met Moreno's gaze. He slightly cleared his throat, and nodded.

"Oh yes...of course! By all means! Once I turn in the gold and the documents to the authorities, we'll both be rich men!" he replied, with a smug look.

Moreno slightly leaned forward, and put his hands on DeSoto's desk.

"Just make sure that you don't forget that half of that reward is mine!" he stated, with an icy stare.

A nervous smile crossed DeSoto's lips. "Don't worry, Seņor, I won't forget!" he replied.

Moreno stood up and looked at DeSoto, sternly. "Just to make sure you don't, I'll be staying at the tavern. I'll be waiting, Alcalde! Oh, and don't get any ideas, either. I'll be watching you, Seņor!" he replied, in a menacing tone.

DeSoto stood, and eyed Moreno, steadily. "Don't worry, Moreno, you'll get your share!" he replied, sternly.

"Good!" replied Moreno, giving a nod of approval. "Buenas noches, Alcalde!" He picked up his gloves, gave a brief salute, then walked out.

DeSoto released an anxious sigh, as he poured himself a drink. He quickly drank his brandy, then blew out his lantern and went to bed. This would be another restless night.

"Moreno! So that's the man's name," Zorro whispered to himself. He waited until all was quiet, then carefully slipped in through the skylight on the roof. He lightly dropped to the floor, then walked over to DeSoto's desk. He picked up a stack of wanted posters and began leafing through them. He slightly flinched when he saw Moreno's poster.

'Carlos Moreno! Madre de Dios! This man makes DeSoto look like a saint!' thought Zorro. He shook his head, as he read the list of crimes. 'Murder, embezzling, assault, disturbing the peace, brutality, kidnapping. Six thousand pesos. What do you know, we have the same bounty. I'm impressed, Alcalde.' He smiled. 'Why would DeSoto get mixed up with this man?! They said something about some documents and gold, and a ship coming in.' He laid the papers back on the desk, and looked in DeSoto's log book.

'Ah, here it is. Day after tomorrow...three o'clock.' Zorro closed the book and quietly slipped it back in DeSoto's drawer. 'Guess I'd better leave, before someone walks in.'

He walked over under the skylight, jumped up, and swung himself up on one of the exposed beams, then quietly exited through the skylight onto the roof. Luckily, Toronado was still waiting patiently for his master, as Zorro swung himself down from the pole that jutted out from the wall, and lightly dropped down into the saddle. Zorro turned Toronado and steered him behind the cuartel, then quickly rode out of town.

As he rode to the cave, thoughts of DeSoto entering in on a deal with Moreno, to claim the reward for obviously stolen goods, deeply troubled Zorro. Of course, it didn't surprise him. Most things that DeSoto did these days rarely surprised Diego. This was different, however. For DeSoto to get involved with a hardened criminal like Moreno just didn't make sense.

'The old saying, "desperate situations call for desperate measures," must be true,' thought Zorro. 'DeSoto must be really desperate to get out of this pueblo, if he's willing to get himself mixed up with this man!'

Zorro trotted Toronado inside the cave to his stall. He hopped off, then removed his saddle, bridle, and halter, then brushed him down, and gave him some fresh oats and hay. After he made sure that Toronado was taken care of for the night, he quickly changed back into his caballero clothes, then quietly stepped through the secret door in the fireplace. He walked back to his bedroom, changed into his nightshirt, then went to bed.

As Diego settled in for the night, he had a feeling that the gold and those documents weren't the only things on Moreno's mind. He had noticed a dangerous look in the bandit's eyes, when he had watched Felipe in the tavern. Diego knew that Moreno would be seeking revenge. Someone like Moreno was not likely to forget a humiliating defeat like that. Tomorrow, Diego would be keeping an attentive eye on Moreno, and a very watchful eye on Felipe.

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