Time After Time

Parte Tres: Day Three

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 straight up and patted himself.

I'm alive, Diego thought. How is this possible? An idea crept into his head. He ran downstairs and looked in the guest room. It showed no signs of being used recently.

"Diego?" his father called. "Is that you?"

"Yes. Over here."

Alejandro walked up to him carrying the notice in his hands.

"Expecting someone?"

"Rosalie."

"Who?"

Diego looked at his father. "You don't remember Rosalie?"

"Who's Rosalie? Remember what?"

"But yesterday - "

"What about yesterday? Diego, do you feeling well?"

Diego thought quickly.

"Actually, I don't. You go to the pueblo without me. I think I'll stay here and rest."

"Very well. Wait. How did you know I was going to the pueblo?"

"You're going to protest the tax increase, aren't you?"

"Yes, but how did you know about it. I only got it this morning."

"I saw the paper in your hand and the alcalde's favorite pasttime is raising taxes, so I assumed that's what it is."

"Oh. It is a tax increase on everything coming and leaving the pueblo, even the cattle we sell. Are you sure you won't come?"

"Quite sure. I'm really not feeling well."

"I'll see you when I return. Adios."

"Adios."

Once Alejandro left, Diego walked to the sala and found Felipe cleaning up the rest of the coffee.

"Felipe, I need to talk to you. Meet me in the secret passage when you're done."

Felipe nodded and condtinued cleaning.

Diego was dressing as Zorro when Felipe entered. Felipe started saddling Tornado while waiting for Diego to finish.

"Tell me, Felipe, did you know the alcalde has a sister?"

Felipe looked surprised before shaking his head.

"Hmm. Something strange is going on. It's like the day is repeating but no one remembers it, except me. I would tell you more, but I need to catch the alcalde and sergeant before they leave."

Felipe shook his head and held out his hands.

"You want to know more? Then saddle your horse and I'll explain it to you."

Felipe ran off to the stable. Zorro mounted Tornado and rode out the cave. He waited for Felipe at the mouth. Moments later he heard Felipe's pinto make it into the area.

"Let's go, we don't have too much time."

As they rode to the pueblo, Zorro told him about the past two days. When he finished, Felipe asked a question.

"I'm positive it wasn't a dream. I know this goes against all rules of science, but something is causing this day to repeat. I think it has something to do with the alcalde and the sergeant. If I can prevent them from riding to the mission, they'll live, and hopefully the day won't repeat."

The sign to Los Angeles came into view.

"Felipe, return home. I should be alright and meet you back there before my father."

Felipe nodded then turned his pinto around. Zorro urged Tornado through the gate. He saw the alcalde and sergeant walking to their horses. The crowd fell silent as Zorro rode by them.

You wouldn't listen to Diego de la Vega. Let's see if Zorro is more persuasive, he thought as he rode up to them.

"Zorro!" the alcalde fumed as Zorro dismounted. "I know you're here about the taxes, but I really don't have time right now. Come at night as you always do."

"I would, but it would be too late," Zorro replied. "I need to speak with you now."

"I'm sorry, but I have personal business to attend to."

"That's what I'm here about."

"What?" the alcalde's eyes narrowed.

"Don't go. You will be ambushed if you go."

The alcalde walked up to Zorro. "You had better not be talking about what I think you're talking about."

"The San Gabriel mission pass - "

The alcalde lunged at Zorro. Zorro was unprepared and they both fell to the ground.

I must have really touched a nerve, Zorro thought as he struggled against the alcalde.

"How do you know?" the alcalde asked as they rolled around on the dirt.

Zorro was too busy trying to hold the alcalde back to try to answer.

"How do you know?" the alcalde shouted and made a grab for Zorro.

When the alcalde pulled back his hand and the crowd gasped. Diego looked up in shock as his mask hung from the alcalde's fist.

Diego heard his name ring out through the crowd. The alcalde grinned at him.

"Lancers!" he shouted. "Arrest Diego de la Vega on the charge of being Zorro."

The lancers surrounded him immediately and had him on his feet facing the alcalde.

"I finally have you," Luis laughed. "All these years you've been tormenting me and now you're mine. I should have known you were Zorro, but then, that was all part of your plan, hmm?"

Diego nodded.

"Well, Fox, you've been dug out of your hole now. You don't know how long I've dreamt of this moment."

"As much as I've dreaded it?" Diego asked, weakly.

"The Fox still has some bite, hmm? We'll see if we can't take care of that."

"Are you still going?"

The alcalde's eyes widened. "And miss my crowning achievement. No, I don't think so. Besides, my business can wait until tomorrow."

Diego let out a sigh of relief.

"How do you know and why are so interested in my personal affairs?"

"I can't tell you how I know, but I do know if you attend to your 'personal affairs' someone will die."

The alcalde looked him up and down, then motioned the guards to take him away. The crowd had been whispering among themselves, but now fell silent as they led Diego to the jail. Diego held his head up high, but he didn't dare look at his father or Victoria. He didn't want to think of what they might say or how they might look at him. The lancers led him to the cell and placed him inside. Once the door slammed and the guards left, Diego sat down and hung his head in his hands.

"Don't tell me the Fox feels defeated," the alcalde laughed.

"You just captured the man who's Zorro; Zorro's spirit cannot be captured."

"I'll give the people in the pueblo your little speech. I'm sure they'll enjoy it. It might even give them some hope before I crush them for good - now that you're out of the picture."

"There will be another like me. Your tyranny can't go on forever unchallenged."

"We'll see. However, I'm not here to exchange pleasantries."

"Then what are you doing here?"

"Your execution."

Diego looked surprised.

"You hadn't thought of that, had you?" the alcalde asked with a wicked gleam in his eyes.

It was slightly true. Diego had always known the alcalde wanted Zorro dead. Yet he had always counted on his ability as the fox to escape the any trap the alcalde set for him. Now the stark truth was laid out before him and Diego was finding it very difficult to face it.

"I thought you hadn't," the alcalde replied, appearing to hear Diego's thoughts. "When shall it be?"

"Just get it over with," Diego answered. "The sooner the better."

"Oh, no, you don't. You will not rob me of my most triumphant moment. I will drag this out and enjoy every moment of your misery. As soon as I have an acceptable execution time, I will let you know."

The alcalde looked at Zorro the way a hunter looked at his prized catch. "Your time has come, Zorro."

"Yours will come, too, one day."

"Hmph," the alcalde snorted then turned on his heel and walked off. He stopped at the guard before leaving. "Sergeant Mendoza, Zorro will recieve no visitors unless I give permission."

"Sí, mi alcalde," Sergeant Mendoza answered.

"And double the guard."

"," Sergeant Mendoza looked quietly at Diego before shaking his head. "I'm sorry - "

"No talking to the prisoner!" the alcalde ordered.

"Sí, mi alcalde," Sergeant Mendoza stood straight up and saluted.

Diego shook his head. At least they're alive, he thought. Hopefully, this will keep the day from repeating, but what a price to pay. Diego heard a commotion outside and wondered what was going on. The alcalde appeared in the doorway, followed by Roberto.

"What's going on?" Diego asked, but he already had a bad feeling in his gut.

"Today is not your day," the alcalde told him, but he seemed more somber than his words indicated.

"What do you mean?"

"Roberto?" the alcalde motioned to him.

Roberto walked up to Diego and took a deep breath. Diego waited, afraid of what he might hear.

"I'm so sorry, Diego, but Felipe - "

Roberto didn't continue, but Diego guessed the rest.

"Felipe? The San Gabriel pass. Americaņos."

"I don't know, they looked like - "

"Indians." Diego finished for him.

Roberto nodded. "He didn't hear them, they were on him before he knew it. I'm so sorry."

"No! Not Felipe! This wasn't supposed to happen!"

Roberto and Luis looked at Diego with worry in their eyes.

"I'm sorry, Diego," the alcalde walked up to him. "Truly, I am. If you'd like to see him, I'll arrange."

"Yes," Diego said. "I'd like that very much."

"I've sent my lancers for his body. When they return, you will be escorted to the church."

"Gracias."

As Roberto and Luis left, Diego prayed fervently for Felipe.

Diego was still praying when the alcalde came up to his cell. He told Diego nothing, but he already knew they had brought Felipe.

Everyone in the pueblo was waiting for them. He saw his father holding Victoria who was crying. She looked up and saw Diego then burst into tears again. Alejandro patted her shoulder and looked at his son.

Lancers surrounded Diego. As they moved through the streets the crowd followed, sometimes pushing into the lancers.

Diego crossed himself before he entered the church. The lancers stayed behind and Sergeant Mendoza and the alcalde followed him inside. Diego eyed the casket which lay at the front of the altar. His mind filled with memories of the boy he loved so much as he walked closer to the altar. He brushed away a tear as he knelt down before the altar.

"It'll be alright, Felipe. Tomorrow - you'll see," he whispered and prayed he was going to be right.

"Oh, Diego," he heard Victoria cry out.

He stood up in time to catch her as she ran into him.

"I'm so sorry about Felipe," she cried into his shoulder. "I know how much he meant to you - to all of us."

She sobbed deeper into his shoulder. Diego held on to her tight, trying to give her comfort. Alejandro walked up to them. Diego could see he was trying to hold back the tears. His hand gripped Diego's shoulder which said more than words could.

"Son..."

Diego nodded. He could see the little church filling up. Once in a while, someone would come up to Diego and tell him he or she was sorry and how much Felipe was going to be missed. Victoria stayed with him the whole time. She tried her best not to cry, but occasionally a tear would fall down her cheek.

Before he knew it, evening was upon them and the alcalde walked up to them.

"It's time to go," he told quietly the small group.

Diego looked at his father and Victoria. Victoria sniffed then hugged Diego.

"I love you," she whispered before she pulled away.

Diego was surprised by her admission especially under the circumstances.

"Me too," he told her as he caressed her check.

She nodded, trying to prevent herself from crying again.

Alejandro walked up to him. Diego could see the questions in his father's eyes and wanted to answer them, but now was not the time. Instead, Alejandro pulled his son into a strong, loving embrace.

Finally, Diego parted and looked back to the alcalde. "I'm ready."

The alcalde motioned Diego ahead. When they made it outside, he saw everyone in the pueblo waiting for them.

What now? Diego thought, fearing the worst.

"Zorro!" the crowd began to chant.

Diego looked at the alcalde who was visibly upset.

"See, alcalde? Zorro's spirit is still free."

"They won't think so after you're dead," he replied back. "Lancers!"

The lancers surrounded them and they started making their way back to the jail. It was a slow and difficult journey since the crowd kept trying to push their way towards Diego. When they finally made it to the jail, the alcalde held up his hands and the crowd quieted down.

"People of Los Angeles," the alcalde said. "Today is truly a sad day for all."

The crowd murmurred agreement.

"But what Seņor de la Vega has done is a crime in the eyes of the Spanish government and he must pay the penalty - death."

The crowd started shouting at the alcalde. The alcalde seemed to actually enjoy it as he looked about them then finally at Diego.

"See?" the alcalde smiled.

"Listen," Diego called out. "Don't let the alcalde do this to you. This is exactly what he wants. I am just merely the person who put on a mask. Zorro means much more than that."

The crowd fell silent.

"Ever the martyr," the alcalde growled at Diego. "Lock him up."

Diego was led to his cell and Diego could hear the protesting of the crowd outside.

"My son is right," Diego heard Alejandro say and he went to the little window for the rest.

"Zorro is much more than a man. Zorro has given us hope and when he is gone, it will be up to us to carry on his spirit."

"But how?" someone asked and the crowd echoed the sentiment.

"We will do what Zorro did - stand up to the alcalde. I am requesting some volunteers to go with me to see the governor - "

"This is treason," the alcalde shouted. "The penalty for treason is death!"

"Then kill us all," someone replied.

"Do that and you won't have a pueblo to run," another added.

There were more shouts and arguments thrown at the alcalde.

"Lancers, put Don Alejandro de la Vega in jail. That should quiet you down."

"Arrest Alejandro and I will take his place," Victoria replied.

"Arrest Victoria and I will take her place," Fernando said.

More people volunteered to speak and going to see the governor. Diego smiled slightly. In a small way, he was glad to see the people taking a stand against the alcalde. He just wished it was under better circumstances. The alcalde walked into the jail.

"You will not get away with this!" he warned Diego. "I will still see you hang."

"At least I know I won't die in vain."

The alcalde glared at Diego then walked back outside.

Diego looked outside the small window. The crowd was keeping a quiet vigil near his cell and some people started singing songs of freedom. He could see his father comforting Victoria. There were several lancers in front of the window so no one could even get close to the outside of the cell. Discouraged, Diego turned away and lay on the small cot. Suddenly, he felt very tired and closed his eyes. The noise of the crowd gently lulled him to sleep.

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