Time After Time

Parte Dos: Day Two

Christina Smith

A loud crash woke Diego from a deep sleep.

"Felipe!" his father yelled. "Why did you do that? Why am I yelling? You can't hear me."

Diego sat up and rubbed his eyes. Something sounded very familiar about what he heard. The images from yesterday came back to him. He held his head in his hands as he thought about poor Sergeant Mendoza and he wondered what happened to the alcalde and his sister. He got out of bed and decided he would see his father first before looking for the alcalde. When he arrived in the sala, he saw Felipe cleaning up some coffee. He shook his head.

"Felipe spilled the coffee again?" he asked his father.

"What do you mean?" his father asked looking at Felipe then his son.

"He did this yesterday," Diego replied. "Didn't he?" he asked after getting strange looks from his father and Felipe.

Felipe shook his head and continued his clean up.

"You sleep too much," Alejandro mumbled as he shook his head.

Diego let the comment go. He'd rather have his father angry at him then at Felipe. But after yesterday, he could understand his father's anger.

"Still looking over that notice about the taxes?" Diego asked.

"Yes, it's very upset - " Alejandro stopped and looked at his son. "How did you know what this is?"

"It came yesterday. Say, aren't you and some of the caballeros supposed to see the governor? Though after the news about Sergeant Mendoza - "

"What are talking you about? What happened to the sergeant?"

Diego jumped and looked at his father. The look of confusion on his face worried Diego.

"You don't remember? Sergeant Mendoza died yesterday."

"What? Sergeant Mendoza is dead. Diego, what are you talking about? Of course I remember yesterday, but not the things you're speaking of. You're spending too much time with your books and your lab."

Alejandro looked at Diego then back at the paper.

"We need to go to the pueblo," he told his soon. "Perhaps a trip to the governor is what we need to do."

"Yes, father," Diego looked confused. "Just give me time to get something."

Diego got up to leave the room and motioned Felipe to follow. Once they were out of hearing, he spoke.

"Something is definitely wrong," he told Felipe.

Felipe agreed.

"I don't know why my father claims he didn't get the notice the other day. And Sergeant Mendoza. How could he forget? Do you remember anything about what I said?"

Felipe shook his head then looked at Diego with concern.

"But - what happened to yesterday?" Diego was confused. Nothing about this morning made sense.

"Do you have what you need, Diego?" Alejandro walked in.

Diego looked around and grabbed a handkerchief. "Yes, father."

"Good. I must talk to some of the dons about your idea. This time the alcalde will not get away with this."

"You're going to see the alcalde?" he asked.

"Diego, what has gotten into you this morning?" Alejandro asked, flustered.

"I'm not sure," Diego answered truthfully.

"If you're not feeling well - "

"No, I feel fine. Let's go."

On the way to the pueblo, Diego kept thinking about this morning. Perhaps yesterday was a dream, he told himself. And yet it seemed so real. He looked up as they entered the pueblo and saw everyone there. Just like the other day, Diego mused, if it did happen. The dons were talking among themselves as Alejandro and Diego walked up.

"Alejandro," Fernando said. "So glad you came. Your voice will give us more power."

"Of course. Any time there is trouble, the dons can count on the de la Vegas for support." Alejandro looked at his son. "In one way or another."

Diego blinked. The conversation seemed so familiar. If the conversation is familiar, Diego thought, then I know what's going to happen next.

Diego looked at the alcalde's office and saw the guards lined up with rifles at the ready. Suddenly the door opened and the alcalde strode out with Sergeant Mendoza right behind him. He slightly smiled when he saw the dons.

Diego stared at Sergeant Mendoza. He is alive, Diego thought. Perhaps it was just a dream. And if it was then he figured he had been given a chance to perhaps save Sergeant Mendoza.

"Good morning," the alcalde said. "I see you received my notice."

"We received it," Alejandro replied, making his way to the front of the crowd.

"Don Alejandro. Why am I not surprised?"

"You scoundrel," Alejandro climbed the steps. "You won't get away with this. You will be stopped."

"Ah, yes, Zorro," Ramone pulled on his gloves. "I'm sure he'll stop by tonight. Until then, I have other business to attend to."

The alcalde motioned Sergeant Mendoza to follow as he walked down the stairs. The guards cleared a path for them as they made their way to their horses.

"Wait!" Diego walked up to them.

The crowd stared speechless. Ramone looked at Diego with amused interest. Diego walked as close to them as he dared. "Please, don't go."

"What do you mean?" the alcalde demanded.

"Don't go see your sister," Diego answered. "If you do, Sergeant Mendoza will die."

The color from the alcalde's and Sergeant Mendoza's face drained. Then the alcalde's face quickly turned red with anger.

"What do you know of my sister?" the alcalde hissed.

"What do you mean I'll die?" the sergeant looked worried.

"She's alright. Please don't go. You will be ambushed."

"Seņor de la Vega," the alcalde raised himself tall in the saddle. "When I want your opinion on how to handle my affairs, I will come to you. Until then, stay out of my business."

Ramone pulled on the horse's reins and rode out the pueblo. Sergeant Mendoza sat for a few moments before urging his horse after the alcalde's.

"What did you say to him?" Don Alejandro asked as he watch them leave.

"Nothing, father. Let's go to the tavern."

Diego thought about what he had done and hoped it was the right thing. It's out of my hands now, he told himself. I warned them. I only hope they listened.

Diego barely heard his father comment on the dons plans and cursed himself for not paying attention. Yet the idea of these events happening the day before but no one remembering them puzzled Diego. He desperately wanted to believe it was a dream, but some of the things were too real and the reaction the alcalde gave him on his sister. If it was a dream, then how did he know these things.

Victoria walked over to him with the pitcher of lemonade. Of all the people in the world, she was the only person who could break him out of his revere.

Before Diego could thank her the door opened up and there stood Roberto Martinez. Diego feared the worst.

"The alcalde," he said in between breaths. "He's dead!" The pitcher slipped from Victoria's grasp. Diego watched as it fell knowing he failed. When it broke, the room erupted in noise. He looked at Victoria and saw her head in her hands, shaking. He moved up to hold her, but she pushed him away and he saw she was laughing.

"He's gone!" she told him. "Roberto, is it true? He's dead."

"Yes," Roberto nodded. "I was coming to the pueblo when I heard shots. I saw the alcalde and Sergeant Mendoza riding. Some people were chasing them - "

"Bandits?" someone asked.

"Americanos," Diego answered.

Diego felt all eyes on him and realized he made a mistake.

"I don't know," Roberto answered. "They were too far away, it look like Indians. I saw them shoot the alcalde. When they passed by me, I rode out to him, but he was already dead."

"Serves him right, the - "

"Couldn't have happened to a better man - "

"El Diablo will enjoy getting this one - "

"Hell's too good for him - "

"Stop!" Diego yelled. Again all eyes were on him. "A man died today. It doesn't matter what he did for a living, his life is over. Don't any of you feel any remorse?"

"Yes," he heard someone say. "The same remorse he felt for us."

Several shouts accompanied him.

"Diego," Don Fernando said, "don't you remember how cruel he was? What he did to your father, to you, Victoria, and the countless people in the pueblo? If it wasn't for Zorro, where would we all be?"

"I realize that. I just don't think his death should be, well, celebrated."

"Oh, Diego," Don Fernando shook his head. "Roberto, where is his body?"

"At the pass to the San Gabriel mission," Roberto informed him.

Same as last time, Diego thought. "I think we should tell someone in the garrison so we can retrieve the body."

"Good thinking, Diego," Don Fernando said. "This way we can make sure he's dead."

Several shouts joined him and the whole tavern made their way to the garrison. The corporal wore a look of surprise at the crowd rushing to meet him. Diego guessed the corporal thought maybe they were going to take the law into their own hands and wondering how to handle it. Once he was told about the alcalde, he gave quick orders for a wagon and soldiers.

"Let's go back to the tavern and wait," Diego suggested to the crowd.

"Why wait? I want to see him now!" a voice answered.

"Yes, now!" the rest of the crowd agreed.

Diego motioned to Felipe as the crowd returned to the tavern for their horses. Once he was sure they were out of ear shot, he spoke.

"I don't like this."

Felipe nodded.

"A crowd like this is dangerous. We'll ride with them, but we'll be behind them. I still want to look for Sergeant Mendoza."

Felipe made some signs.

"How did I know something like this would happen?" he asked.

Felipe nodded.

"It's a long story. I'll tell you when we get back to the hacienda."

They rode to the pass with Roberto leading the way. Diego and Felipe rode far behind, giving Diego a chance to look at their surroundings. He could see signs someone passed through, but it was Roberto. He wouldn't know anything until they reach the pass. Finally, he saw a clearing up ahead and the procession started slowing down.

"There he is," he heard Roberto say.

The crowd started to rush, but the corporal put his hands up and the soldiers pointed their rifles at the crowd.

"What are you doing?" Don Fernando asked.

"This is a military matter," the corporal told him. "We will handle his body until the funeral. Am I understood?"

Heads bobbed in the crowd and Diego let out a sigh of relief. At least someone else was taking the alcalde's death seriously. He started looking around and saw the hoofprints of the Americanos and the Sergeant's horse. He saw more horse tracks lead in another, but deduced they were the alcalde's horse. He needed to follow the tracks. He looked at the crowd and saw they were watching the alcalde's body and making comments to themselves.

No one will notice if I slip away, he thought. He motioned Felipe to follow. The tracks were fairly easy to see and they could make good time as they ran after them. He judged from the hoofprints there were three or four riders chasing Sergeant Mendoza. Then the tracks stopped and made circular motions. The tracks of Sergeant Mendoza's horse led in one direction, but Diego doubted the sergeant was still on him when the horse ran. He told Felipe his suspicions.

"Why do I say that?" he asked and the boy nodded. "From the hoofprints. We have been watching the horse run with Sergeant Mendoza. If you see how deep they are here, then see how they are a little more shallow over there."

Felipe looked back and forth several times before nodding.

"But where is the sergeant?" Diego asked, looking around the small area. He kept his ears focused in case he might hear something, when he heard a faint noise. "Listen!"

Felipe lowered his head, concentrating. He finally pointed to an area behind some trees.

"Good work," Diego commented, dismounted, and walked to the area. "Sergeant?"

He heard a groan.

"Sergeant is that you?"

He heard his name barely whispered.

He made his way through the trees and saw Sergeant Mendoza laying on the ground.

"Sergeant, are you alright?"

He nodded. "Just a little dizzy," he managed to say.

"Come on, I'll help you up."

Diego grabbed the large man and somehow managed to help him out of the hole he fell into. Once they were in the clearing, Diego started asking questions.

"Can you speak?"

", Don Diego," he answered. "I, uh, fell down. I must have hit my head."

Diego slightly smiled as the sergeant rubbed the back of his head.

"Good thing for you you're so hard-headed."

"I guess so," Sergeant Mendoza looked around. "Where are they?"

"They must have left when they saw you fall. They might have thought the fall killed you. Another couple of feet and it would have."

Sergeant Mendoza shivered at what Diego said. "Where's the alcalde?"

"He died," Diego told him quietly.

"Madre de Dios," the sergeant cried then put his head in his hands. "It should have been me. He was trying to protect me. You were right, Don Diego. They were Americanos and ... now the alcalde is gone. How did you know?"

"Call it a premonition. Did the Americanos say what they wanted?"

"No, they just charged us. It was nothing like I'd ever seen before."

"Do you feel well enough to walk?"

"Yes, the dizziness has passed."

"Good, we'll see if we can't meet up with the rest of the people."

"Gracias."

Diego motioned to Felipe and told him to try to get someone from the group here to help Sergeant Mendoza. Felipe nodded, jumped on his pinto, and rode off.

Once Felipe rode off, Diego started walking around looking at the ground. He turned back to the sergeant.

"Sergeant, I'd like to follow the Americanos tracks and try to find out where they went. Do you feel well enough to be left alone for a while?"

"Uh, I guess so," the sergeant answered. "I feel a little better."

"Good, Felipe shouldn't be too long and I'll try to return as soon as I can."

At Sergeant Mendoza's nod, Diego mounted his horse and rode off in the direction of the tracks.

"It looks like they're turning back to the mission," he thought outloud.

Then he came to a crossroads. He frowned at all the hoofprints spread out before him. He heard a noise behind him and started to worry. Americanos? he asked himself. He turned around he let a sigh of relief as he saw Felipe looking back at him.

"These tracks tell us nothing," he told Felipe.

Felipe looked at the ground and nodded.

"Why am I always running into dead ends?" he asked.

Felipe looked at him and shrugged. He pointed to the crossroads and held up three fingers.

"Three possibilities - but which one is right? And why did they attack again?"

Felipe moved his head to one side then made some gestures.

"I don't know if it was a dream or what," he told him, "but these events did happen. Not in the same way, but it is very similar to what I remember. I don't know why no one else remembers these events, but I do. Don't worry, Felipe, I'm fine. Just a little confused. We had better get going before we're missed."

They rode back and found a silent crowd gathered around Sergeant Mendoza. The sergeant just kept looking at the cart. The corporal finally told the people to go home and the crowd slowly dispersed. The corporal walked up to Diego once he saw them dismount.

"You found him?" he asked.

"Yes, he was over there," Diego pointed to the small area of trees.

"He's your servant," he said indicating Felipe.

"Yes, he was with me when we found the sergeant."

"Did you see or hear anything out of the ordinary?"

"Just the tracks of their attackers."

"And your servant?"

"He can neither hear nor speak."

"Very well," the corporal looked around then turned to his men. "We're done here."

The soldiers mounted their horses and Sergeant Mendoza stepped on the wagon. He crossed himself then touched the cloth before he got on.

"Very sad," Diego commented.

"True, but you must expect these things when you're a soldier," the corporal told him then walked away.

The small procession started back to the pueblo. Only a handful of people walked or rode next to them. Diego looked around and saw his father standing next to Roberto.

"Should we escort Roberto home?" he asked his father.

"Yes," Alejandro asked still looking at the wagon.

Once it was out of view, they mounted their horses and made their way to Roberto's house. When they arrived, the little house was quiet.

"Maria's mother is still sick?" Diego asked.

"What do you mean?" Roberto answered. "She became sick this morning."

"Were you going for Dr. Hernandez?"

"No, Maria's mother will be fine," Roberto replied as he dismounted. "She's had this before. Maria will look after her for a couple of days until she's well. Thank you, all of you, for your help."

"If you need anything don't hesitate to come to us," Alejandro said.

"Don't worry, everything will be fine."

Roberto looked at Diego with anger in his eyes. Diego wondered what he said to upset him. The comment about Maria's mother? But what does she have to do with anything? he wondered. He was still trying to figure out the mystery when his father spoke.

"How did you know something like this was going to happen?" he asked Diego.

"I'm - not sure," he answered.

"There's something you're not telling me," Alejandro looked upset. "What is it?"

"This whole day - it's not right."

"How?"

"Why is it I know things and everyone else doesn't?"

"A dream?"

"Maybe," Diego answered then thought a moment. "It was a dream. It's the only logical explanation."

Alejandro nodded agreement.

"Will you still be going to see the governor?"

"No. Since the alcalde's dead there's no reason to see him."

"But isn't his death a reason to see him? We need a new alcalde now."

"We'll get one. As soon as this news reaches Madrid, they'll give us a new one."

Diego looked at his father and felt he was keeping something from him. Yet questioning his father was going to be futile. If there was something he didn't want Diego to know, he wasn't going to say it. Like father, like son, Diego thought. The hacienda rose into view and Diego was abou to let out a sigh of relief when he saw a carriage in front.

"Who could this be?" Alejandro wondered.

"I'm not sure," Diego answered. "Let's find out."

They made their way to the gates and dismounted. A servant ran out and spoke to Alejandro.

"We have two visitors," he told Diego. "Padre Jose and a young woman."

Rosalie! Diego thought. What is she doing here? "Let's go see them," he motioned to the hacienda.

In the sala, Padre Jose and a woman sat on the couch. The woman had her head in her hands and they could hear signs of crying. Padre Jose was trying unsuccessfully to console her.

"Padre Jose," Alejandro greeted. "What brings you to our hacienda?"

The padre stood and looked at the young woman sadly before replying. "This is Seņorita Rosalie Ramone."

"Ramone?" Alejandro looked at the young woman.

At the sound of the name she looked up and saw the two men.

"," she answered weakly.

"You're the alcalde's sister," Diego replied.

"I - am ... was his sister," she told them, then broke down again.

"Then she's heard the news," Alejandro spoke quietly.

Padre Jose nodded then walked over to them. "The seņorita was out for a walk when a vaquero came by and told her the news. Apparently he was telling everyone. She became very distressed. I thought she might feel better if I brought her here. I hope you don't mind."

"No, of course not," Alejandro looked at the woman. "She's very welcomed here."

Rosalie looked up at him. "Gracias, seņor. You're very kind. Permit me to ask one question."

"Yes?"

"Was my brother as bad as the vaquero said he was? He seemed so happy that my brother is dead."

Alejandro looked at the padre and his son, trying to come up with answer. Diego spoke first.

"Your brother was not without his faults," Diego replied. "I'm sure he was trying to do what he felt was in the best interest of the government. His methods were not always favorable. I do know he loved his family. He died protecting Sergeant Mendoza. You can be proud of him."

"Gracias, seņor."

Diego ignored the look his father gave him.

"Perhaps the seņorita would like something to drink," Alejandro said.

"Gracias, some tea would be nice."

"Anyone else?"

"No, I'm fine," Padre Jose said.

"Diego?"

"No, nothing."

"No, come and help me get the tea," Alejandro pointed to the door.

"Oh," Diego grimaced.

"?" Diego asked once he was in the kitchen.

"I didn't know the alcalde had a sister," he told Diego.

"No one did, but then again we didn't know he had a brother until we met Vincente."

"True. What are we going to do about her?"

"We will keep her with us as long as she needs us."

"Diego what you said about Luis Ramone was noble, but she'll eventually learn how her brother really was. People talk, like the vaquero who told her the news."

"I know, but why don't we let it sink in before she's told her how he really was. She needs time to mourn the alcalde's death."

"I hope you're right about this, son."

"So do I," Diego picked up the platter the servant had prepared and walked back into the sala.

When he walked into the sala, he motioned to Felipe and told him to prepare the guest room. Felipe nodded and hurried off.

Padre Jose was talking to Rosalie. She nodded and dabbed her eyes as she listened.

"I just told Rosalie I'm leaving," he informed the de la Vegas. "There are so many things to do to prepare for Padre Benitez's return."

"We understand," Alejandro told him.

"Gracias, Don Alejandro, for letting Rosalie stay with you."

"It is our pleasure."

"Rosalie," Padre Jose said, "if you require anything more of me, just come back to the mission."

"Gracias, padre, you've been so kind to me."

Padre Jose patted her hand and left. Diego placed the platter on the table and poured a cup.

"Gracias, seņor," she said. "Both of you."

"Is there anything else we can get you?" Alejandro asked.

". I'd like to see my brother."

Alejandro looked at Diego. Diego could already hear him admonishing him. He needed to think fast.

"When would you like to go?" Diego asked, feeling he already knew the answer.

"As soon as possible," she replied. "Is there a problem?"

"There might be," Diego answered. "Considering the circumstances of his death."

"What do you mean?"

"I assumed you were told how he died."

"All I know is he is dead. The vaquero didn't go into too much detail."

"He was shot by Americanos."

"No!" Rosalie paled. "That's - not possible."

Diego looked at his father.

"Do you know anything about the Americanos?" Diego asked, confused by her reaction.

"I - it can't be. It just - it can't be," Rosalie said before she fainted.

"What is this all about?" Alejandro asked.

"I'm not sure," Diego went to the couch to pick her up.

As he held Rosalie in his arms, Victoria came into the room.

"Alejandro, Diego - "

She stopped when she saw them. Can this possibly get worse? Diego thought.

"I see I've come at a bad time."

She turned around to leave, but Alejandro caught her arm.

"This is Seņorita Ramone," he explained.

"Ramone?"

"Yes, the alcalde's sister. She fainted and Diego is moving her to the guest bedroom."

"The acalde's sister?"

"Yes," Alejandro said. "I'll tell you all about it."

Diego took this time to carry Rosalie to the bedroom. Felipe just finished the bed and he placed her down. Felipe looked worriedly at Rosalie.

"She'll be fine, she just fainted. Victoria's here."

Felipe looked at Diego with concern.

"It is a bad situation, but I need to find out why she came here. Get me when Rosalie wakes."

Diego returned to the sala where he found Alejandro and Victoria on the couch.

"Oh, Diego, I feel so awful," Victoria said once she saw him. "I didn't know he had a sister."

"She wants to see her brother."

"No, she mustn't come to the pueblo now."

"Why not?"

"That's the reason I came here. I think they're going to start a fight."

"Who?"

"The soldiers and everyone in the pueblo. They demand the alcalde's body, but the soldiers aren't releasing it. Alejandro, Diego, please reason with them. Do more people have to die today?"

"You're right. We'll go at once."

"What about Rosalie?" Alejandro asked. "We can't just leave her here."

"True," Diego thought a moment. "I'll have Felipe stay with her. I'll give him instructions that she's not to leave the hacienda."

"But Felipe can't hear or speak," Victoria reminded him. "She won't know what he's doing. I'll stay."

"Are you sure?" Diego asked.

"Yes, besides she might feel better with another woman than having men hound her all night."

"Gracias. Hopefully we won't be long."

"Don't worry, everything will be fine," Victoria told him.

"I hope you're right," Alejandro said as they walked out the door.

They rode to the pueblo as fast as they could.

"Look," Diego pointed to the horizon.

They could see smoke billowing towards the sky.

"We'd better hurry!" Alejandro spurred his horse on.

They rode to the pueblo as fast as they could. In the distance they could hear yelling and shots.

I hope we're not too late, Diego thought.

He could see signs of fire in the background. He pressed his horse even faster and saw his father did the same.

"What is going on?" Alejandro asked, looking at the scene before him.

People were dancing to marichis. More people sat at tables eating, drinking, talking, laughing, while others stood next to the fire doing the same.

"Alejandro, Diego," Fernando greeted them. "Glad you could make it."

"What is this?"

"A fiesta in honor of the alcalde!"

"Victoria came to our hacienda and told us about the dispute."

"Ah, yes, our little disagreement with the corporal," Fernando looked at the garrison and raised his glass to him, the corporal just looked back.

Alejandro nodded.

"We're worried a riot might break out," Diego explained.

"A riot? In Los Angeles?" Fernando lauged. "You worry too much."

"What happened with the corporal?"

"We argued for a little while. He said we couldn't see the body. But eventually we came to a compromise. He said we can have our fiesta as loud and long as we like, as long as we don't disturb the alcalde or damage anything - too badly. You're welcomed to join us."

"No, thank you," Diego replied. "I think we should be leaving now. Right, father?"

"I agree," Alejandro turned his horse around.

Diego followed him. He thought about visiting Sergeant Mendoza, but the the tightly guarded garrison convinced him otherwise. As soon as they left the pueblo, Alejandro spoke.

"We can't let the women leave the hacienda."

"I agree. No telling what would happen if the people found out about Rosalie. Do you think they will start a riot?"

"It's hard to tell. Right now, they're friendly, but as the night wears on, they might become dangerious."

"Perhaps one of us should return later tonight."

"I was thinking the same thing. I'll be coming back in an hour or two."

"But father - "

Alejandro held up his hand. "This is a job for a man, Diego. It would be better if someone who knew how to handle conflict was there. I hope you understand, son. You're good at handling civil disputes, but there will be nothing civil about tonight."

"I understand, father," Diego replied. He did understend, but he couldn't shake the shame he felt everytime he thought of his father's words.

"He basically called me a coward," Digo told Felipe as ge paced the floor of his room.

Felipe winced at the tone in Diego's voice. He frantically made some gestures, but Diego was too upset to pay attention. Felipe finally tapped him on the shoulder.

"What?"

Felipe jumped back.

"I'm sorry. This whole thing is upsetting me."

Felipe nodded. He then made some more gestures.

"Perhaps he didn't mean it, but it hurt."

Felipe nodded again and asked another question.

"Yes, Zorro will ride tonight. My father's a brave man, but he's not as young as he used to be. As soon as he leaves, I'll make an excuse to leave the room for a while. But what emergency will give me time and excuse me from the room for a long period of time without being disturbed."

Felipe thought a moment then made a suggestion.

"Perfect. They wouldn't question me taking care of a sick horse. Very well. When my father leaves, inform me one of the horses is not acting right. Make sure Rosalie and Victoria don't leave the hacienda."

Felipe nodded then motioned to the door.

"You're right, it's time to go."

When they walked into the sala, Alejandro was telling Victoria about the pueblo.

"That's horrible," Victoria said when he was done. "I'll admit the alcalde wasn't my favorite person, but a fiesta?"

"We didn't like it either," Diego told her. "How is Rosalie doing?"

"She's still asleep," Victoria answered and Diego thought he heard ice in her voice.

"Good," Alejandro looked at both of them. "Neither one of you needs to be in the pueblo."

"Why not?" Rosalie asked.

They turned to see her standing in the doorway still looking pale.

"Seņorita, are you sure you should be up?" Diego asked, rushing to her side.

He heard Victoria make a sound and could feel her eyes boring into him. Can't be helped, he thought, but I'll talk to her as soon as I can.

"I feel fine," she told him, but he could feel her going limp in his arms.

He motioned to Felipe. "Bring Seņorita Ramone our special tea while I take her back to the her room. It'll help you relax," he told her.

"Gracias," she smiled as he led her back to the guest room. "I can't thank you and your family enough for taking care of me."

"That's quite alright, seņorita," he said. "It's the least we can do."

"My brother never mentioned me?"

"No, but he liked to keep to himself. He didn't mention any of his family."

"Oh."

"I'm positive he lovd you."

"You said that earlier. Why are you so sure?"

"I believe he said nothing because he loved his family so much he didn't want to ley anyone see that side of him."

"I see."

"He just wanted to make sure you were safe."

"I'm nineteen. I'm old enough to take care of myself."

"Family members tend to be over-protectective at times, especially the ones they care most about, no matter the age."

"Gracias, Diego, you're very kind."

"De nada, seņorita. Just glad I can help. If you don't need anything more, I'll be leaving."

"I think I'll be fine."

"Very good." Deigo got up and left. As soon as he walked out the door, he bumped into Victoria.

"Making sure seņorita Ramone is settled in?" she asked.

"Yes, she's doing fine."

"Good, then you won't need me."

She turned to leave, but Diego caught her several feet away.

"What's wrong?" he asked.

"Wrong?" she laughed. "What could be wrong? A woman you never met waltzes into your hacienda and you wait on her hand and foot. What is wrong about that?"

"Are you jealous?"

"Jealous? Of what? The alcalde's sister? Don't make me laugh."

She wrenched herself out of his grip and Diego didn't try to stop her. He stood in shock over his discovery. What am I supposed to do? he wondered.

"Victoria's jealous, huh?" Alejandro chuckled.

"Father."

"I'm sorry, son, please continue."

"She thinks I'm paying too much attention to Rosalie. I'm just looking after her welfare."

Alejandro chuckled again and shook his head.

"Father, this is serious."

"Yes, it is, forgive me," Alejandro rubbed under his eye then continued. "Diego, try to see this from Victoria's view point. A beautiful woman comes to our hacienda and Victoria has found her in your arms twice already."

"I'm only trying to help."

"I know that and Victoria probably knows that, but her judgement is a little cloudy."

"But it shouldn't be."

Alejandro sighed. "For someone who is so knowledgeable, the obvious has escaped you."

"What?"

"Son," Alejandro tried to explain himself again. "If a handsome stranger with minor wounds was staying at the tavern and Victoria spent all her time taking care of him, how would you feel?"

"I'd perfectly understand," Diego said through clenched teeth.

"Oh?" he looked at Diego's fists.

Diego looked down then shrugged sheepishly. "I guess I see you're point. But what do I do?"

"The only thing you can do. Talk to Victoria and explain the situation. Lavish some attention on her. Tell her how you feel about her. In my experience with your mother, I found the truth is always better. Besides, it's time you two quit playing cat-and-mouse."

Diego looked at his father.

"I've seen how you chase each other around."

"But Zorro - "

"Diego, for once be a man about something. I'm not getting any younger. I'd like to see the de la Vega line continue."

"Father," Diego blushed a little.

Alejandro shook his head. "I'd better be going. The party should be about ready to start."

"Please be careful."

"Don't worry. I will be."

As soon as Alejandro left, Diego got up and started looking for Felipe. He found him coming out of Rosalie's room with the tea tray.

"How is she?"

Felipe told him she was sleeping.

"Good. As soon as you put that up, go to the stables, then come and get me."

Felipe nodded and left. Diego followed him into the sala and was preparing himself for his ride when Victoria walked in.

"Diego?"

"Victoria, am I glad to see you. I want to talk to you."

"Me too."

Silence hung in the air as each seemed to struggle for the words.

"About Rosalie," Diego started.

"That's what I've come to talk to you about. If you have feelings for her, I won't stand in your way."

"What? No, it's not like that at all."

She looked at Diego questioningly as Felipe ran up to them. He frantically tugged Diego's sleeve.

"Felipe, what is it?"

Felipe started signing, but he was moving too fast.

"Felipe, slow down."

Felipe took a deep breath and started over again.

"What does he say?"

"Indians - at the hacienda gate."

"Indians?"

"I'd better check it out. Both of you stay here. Look after Victoria, Felipe."

Felipe nodded as Diego looked at both of them before he left. He walked outside and saw four Indians on horse back at the gate. They made no move towards him so Diego decided to walk up to them. Once he could see them clearly, he saw who they really were.

"Americaņos?"

One of them looked at Diego with wide eyes before uttering a single command.

"Attack!"

Diego stepped back, completely off guard. The Americaņo raised a flintlock at Diego and pulled the trigger. He stumbled back and grabbed his chest. It's not supposed to end like this, he thought as the world dissolved around him.

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