Time After Time

Parte Quatro: Day Four

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. Felipe?!

"Felipe!" he ran downstairs and saw Felipe looking at the mess on the floor. "Felipe! Thank God!"

He hugged Felipe tightly and picked him up. Felipe started to struggle and Diego put him down.

"Son, are you feeling well?" Alejandro asked.

"Yes, I'm just so happy to see Felipe," Diego replied, still looking Felipe over. Felipe gave him a curious look. "Now, how did I get back?"

"Back from where?"

Diego stopped and thought for a moment.

"Of course," he said at last. "My theory was correct, just the wrong variable."

"What are you talking about?"

"An experiment I'm working on."

"Experiments. I should have known. Diego, we have a more pressing matter at hand."

Alejandro lifted the tax notice in his hands. Diego took it and pretended to read it while thinking about the past three days.

"...including the cattle we sell."

Alejandro's voice brought him out of his thought.

"You want to go to the pueblo and protest the tax increase."

"Of course," Alejandro looked at Diego. "I don't think you feel well."

Alejandro lifted his hand to check Diego's forehead.

"Father, I'm fine." Diego brushed Alejandro's hand away. "It's just this experiment is very important."

"So is protesting the tax increase."

"I know and I agree, but this experiment could mean the difference between life and death."

"Life and death? What kind of experiment are you working on?"

Diego thought fast. "A vaccine. I've tried it several times and nothing seems to work, maybe today I'll get it right."

Alejandro looked skeptical at his soon. "Very well. Work on your 'experiment' and I'll protest the tax."

"Gracias."

Alejandro looked at Felipe and Diego caught his eye.

"I'll need Felipe, too," he told his father.

Alejandro huffed. "Anything else?"

"Not that I know of," Diego answered. "Let me know what happens in the pueblo."

"If you came with me, then you would find out for yourself."

"I would father, but this is very important."

Alejandro shook his head and got up to leave.

"Be careful father," Diego told him.

"I've been to the pueblo many times, don't worry."

Diego nodded and waited until Alejandro left before speaking to Felipe.

"Felipe, let's go to the secret passage."

Felipe nodded and followed Diego to the fireplace. Diego reached underneath the mantle and pressed the button. A little doorway opened up and both disappeared inside.

"What I'm about to tell you is very difficult to believe, even for me. Apparently, I'm the only one who seems to know about it." Diego said as he started changing into his Zorro outfit.

Felipe looked confused.

"This day has been repeating itself."

Felipe eyes went wide then he made a motion.

"You don't believe me," Diego nodded. "I don't believe it myself, but every morning it's the same thing. My father gets a notice, you spill the coffee, and the alcalde starts off to see Rosalie, his sister."

Felipe looked shocked.

"Yes, the alcalde has a sister. She's at the San Gabriel mission. Why? I don't know, but she's there. And anyone who rides on that road in the morning will die. At first I thought it was the alcalde or the sergeant. But then yesterday, you died."

Felipe pointed to himself.

"Yes, you were dead."

Felipe gulped and shook his head.

"But that's not all. Everyone found out I was Zorro."

Felipe's eyes got wider and he asked Diego how it happened.

"The alcalde cares very much for his sister. As soon as I mentioned his 'personal business', he became furious, attacked me, and took my mask off."

Felipe looked upset.

"It wasn't good at all, I'm just thankful the day repeated again and that you're alive."

Felipe gestured he was glad too.

"I better get to work, the sergeant and alcalde will be heading out to see his sister soon and I need to intercept them. I'm not sure what it is yet, but it has something to do with the pass and the Americaņos. When I get back, you can help me try to discover what the connection between the two is. I'd like to follow the Americaņos, but I need to prevent the alcalde and sergeant from riding on the pass. I'll have to try to get them to follow me somehow. I also want to find out what Rosalie is doing here. It's going to be a busy day."

Felipe nodded and started to prepare Tornado. When Tornado was ready, Zorro mounted and looked at Felipe.

"Stay here, I don't want you to die again."

Felipe agreed and gestured that he was going to stay here and wait for him to return.

"Good."

Zorro urged Tornado out of the cave and headed towards the San Gabriel mission pass.

When Zorro arrived at the San Gabriel pass, no one was there. He quickly looked at the ground and let a sigh of relief. Except for a few people, there had been no real traffic on the pass. He started riding towards the pueblo.

After a mile, he saw the alcalde and Sergeant Mendoza riding towards him. They stopped when they saw Zorro. The alcalde twisted his face. Zorro had thought about what he was going to say to the alcalde while riding to the pass. He knew if he said anything about his sister, the alcalde would go crazy.

"I know you've come to see me about the tax increase, but can it wait? I'm a little busy," the alcalde told Zorro.

"No plans to chase me?"

"Not today. I give you amnesty for the day. Enjoy it."

The alcalde started to move his horse, but Zorro moved Tornado in his path. The alcalde rolled his eyes.

"Why?" Zorro asked.

"Because I don't have time to deal with you right now."

Zorro thought maybe he could lead them from the pass, but the alcalde was not biting. Zorro had to come up with a different idea. Then Zorro remembered they were unarmed.

"Alcalde," Zorro grinned, "have I caught you at a bad time?"

"Yes, you have," the alcalde was losing patience. "Now move out of the way."

"No weapons?" Zorro looked closer at them.

Luis looked at Sergeant Mendoza before answering.

"No."

"Too bad."

Zorro rode closer to them.

"Zorro, please, I have business I really need to attend to."

Zorro raised his eyebrows.

"Alcalde it sounds like you're begging. Tch, tch. I'm afraid your business will have to wait."

"But - "

"Now, now, it's not that bad. You knew I was going to come see you and make my own 'protest' about your tax increase."

"Then just do it and get it over with," the alcalde said.

"All in good time," Zorro said. "I'm hurt, alcalde, to learn there is something more important to you than capturing me. Now tell me, what could this business be?"

The alcalde sat straight in his saddle and gave Zorro a look of contempt.

"Sergeant?" Zorro asked.

Sergeant Mendoza looked at the alcalde and the alcalde gave him a searing look. Sergeant Mendoza looked back at Zorro then at the ground.

"So, no one's talking," Zorro shook his head.

Zorro heard a horse coming down the road. He turned Tornado so he could see the new comer while watching the alcalde and sergeant. He saw Roberto riding at full speed. When he saw the three of them, he slowed down.

"Roberto, what is it?" Zorro asked.

"Indians," he said once his horse stopped, "on the San Gabriel pass."

"What happened?"

"I was on my way to the pueblo, when I heard shouting and saw several horses coming towards me. I couldn't understand it, but it sounded threatening. I quickly hid in one of the bushes and waited for them to pass."

"Was there a woman with them?" the alcalde asked.

"No," Roberto shook his head.

"An affair de ceour?" Zorro asked.

The alcalde narrowed his eyes. "Stay out of this."

"Believe me, alcalde, that is my full intention."

Zorro moved Tornado back and motioned them to continue.

"We may go?" the alcalde asked, looking suspicious.

"Yes," Zorro nodded. "Don't worry, I'll visit you later."

The alcalde eyed Zorro as he and Sergeant Mendoza rode past Zorro. Once they were gone, Zorro turned to Roberto.

"Did you see which way they went?" he asked.

Roberto nodded. "It looked like they were going to one of the reservations."

"Where is Maria? She usually joins you when you go to the pueblo."

"Her mother has taken ill," Roberto answered, looking away. "She'll be back in a few days."

"I'm sorry to hear that. My prayers are with her."

"Gracias," Roberto replied and started back to the pueblo.

Zorro watched Roberto ride away and couldn't help but think he wasn't telling him the truth. But it's really not my business, Zorro reminded himself, it's between Roberto and Maria. But Zorro still couldn't shake the feeling he should try to find out the truth.

He looked down the road the alcalde and sergeant disappeared and pushed Tornado ahead. He had accomplished one goal and it was time to complete another.

He arrived at the intersection on the San Gabriel pass. Roberto was right, they were heading to one of the reservations.

But why? Zorro wondered. What could they possibly want from the Indians?

He carefully followed their trail while keeping his eyes and ears open. The landscape looked vaguely familiar then he remembered where he saw it. He spotted the place where he found the alcalde the first day. Several more yards and small houses appeared over the hill.

Movement caught his eye and he prepared himself. Out of one of the houses a woman came out carrying a bowl.

Maria? Zorro thought.

He rode closer to get a better look. The woman had her back to him, picking plants and flowers. When she finally faced him, he got a clear view of her.

"Zorro," She dropped the bowl.

"Maria?" he asked. She's the woman from the first day. Why didn't I recognize her then. Because I was too busy helping the alcalde, that's why.

"What are doing out here?" she asked while picking up the bowl and it's contents. "Chasing bandits?"

"Not exactly. I'm looking for a group of Indians. Have you seen them?"

"Zorro, we're close to a reservation. There are Indians everywhere."

"Yes, but the ones I'm looking for are different. They're Americaņos disguised as Indians."

Maria was quiet as she thought about it. Then she slowly shook her head. "No, I'm sorry, I haven't seen them."

Zorro was doubtful. Something inside told him she was lying, but he couldn't put his finger on it. He wanted to stay and try to find out what Maria was lying about, but he couldn't let the Americaņos get too much of a lead on him. He looked at her thoughtfully before deciding he needed to leave.

"Gracias."

"Anytime I can help, Zorro."

He rode off in the direction of the tracks.

Zorro saw Felipe reading when he rode in. Once Felipe heard the hooves of Tornado, he put the book down and came over to them. He grabbed the black stallions reins as Zorro dismounted. Once he was down, Felipe signed a question.

"I didn't learn anything," Diego ripped off his mask. "I followed their tracks until I came upon a small group of houses and lost their trail."

Felipe shrugged and asked how.

"There is a river close by and the tracks of animals going to drink covered the Americaņos' tracks. I do know what direction they are traveling in. If only I could have followed them and not their trail. What are they up to?"

Felipe shrugged and shook his head.

"Is my father back yet?"

Felipe shook his head.

"Good. I want to talk about some things which are bothering me. Sometimes talking with you helps me solve the problem."

Felipe blushed a little at the compliment, then started to work on brushing down Tornado while Diego told him what happened that morning. Diego finished up his story as Felipe was giving Tornado his oats.

"What I can't understand is why the Americaņos are attacking people," Diego told him. "At first I thought it was just the alcalde and sergeant, but then they attacked you on the pass and us at our hacienda. Am I glad the day repeated those times."

Felipe looked skeptical at Diego. Diego nodded.

"It really happened."

Felipe nodded, but smiled slyly.

"Oh," Diego rubbed Felipe's head. "I'm just glad you're alive. It was a horrible to lose you. A lot of people came to the church for you."

Felipe looked surprised.

"Yes," Diego nodded. "Everyone in the pueblo came to your service. But I still need to find out what the Americaņos are after. Any suggestions?"

Felipe looked thoughtful, then he made a swept his hand across the room.

"Land?"

Felipe nodded.

"No, I don't think so. The night they attacked us, they had an angry look in their eyes. It was scary. They were out to kill."

Felipe looked taken aback, then made the sign of a soldier.

"I don't think they're soldiers. Not enough of them. There were only about five or six of them. If it was an army, I think they would have a lot more people with them and be a little more organized. As far as I know, they haven't attacked the pueblo and the reservation showed no signs of a fight. In fact, the reservation seemed deserted. The only person I saw was Maria. Besides what reason would they have for attacking us?"

Felipe shook his head.

"I don't know either, but when I heard they killed you, I wanted to kill them myself."

Felipe looked up at Diego shocked.

"It's true, I was that angry."

Felipe shook his head and gestured to Diego.

"You think they're angry?" Diego asked and Felipe nodded. "I think you're right, but angry at what?"

Felipe's knitted his eyebrows in thought. Diego was thinking about it as well and coming up empty. His ears caught the chiming of the clock and brought him out of his revere.

"I wonder what's keeping my father?" he asked.

Felipe looked up at Diego's questioned and shrugged.

"Something's not right."

He got up and headed to the secret entrance to the sala. No one was there so he slipped in with Felipe behind him. He rang for one of the servants and Consuela answered the ring.

"Has my father returned?" he asked.

"No, Don Diego," she replied. "We have not seen him since he left for the pueblo."

"Have my horse and Felipe's pinto saddled, por favor."

"Sí, seņor."

Consuela left and Deigo turned to Felipe.

"We'd better go to the pueblo and see what's happened. It's not like him to be gone for this long."

Felipe nodded. Moments later Consuela appeared and informed them their horses were ready. As they walked out, they saw Alejandro riding towards them.

"Father, thank goodness - "

"No time, son," Alejandro said turning his horse around. "Mount up."

"What's going on?" Diego asked.

"The alcalde - no time to explain. Come with me to the pueblo."

Once they were on their horses, Alejandro sped off in the direction of the pueblo. Diego looked at Felipe and saw the worried expression on his face. Diego was worried too.

"Let's go," he urged his horse into a gallop and Felipe followed.

They raced to Victoria's tavern. As soon as they were there, Alejandro jumped down from his horse and ran inside. Diego and Felipe followed him, after hitching the horses to the pole. Diego quickly glanced around and saw it was empty. Felipe looked at him questioningly and Diego shrugged. Diego braced himself, but he still wasn't prepared for the scene before him.

Alejandro was behind the bar talking to an upset Victoria, but she wasn't looking at him. Diego followed her stare and understood why she was so upset. The alcalde sat at one of the tables staring into space. Diego saw the wine bottles surrounding him and guessed the rest.

"I am not going to give him more wine," Victoria clenched her jaw. "Having to deal with one drunk is bad enough, but I'm not putting up with two."

"Two?" Diego asked.

Victoria nodded, not taking her eyes off the alcalde. "Roberto Martinez."

"He came in shortly before noon," Alejandro explained. "He started drinking wine like it was water."

"Why?"

"Something about his wife. He was very drunk and incoherent. I'm not sure what the whole story is."

"Where is he now?"

"Upstairs," Victoria answered. "That's where I'd like to put him."

"Where's my wine?" the alcalde demanded. "I'm the alcalde of this pueblo. I command a whole garrison of soldiers and when I want something, I want it now! And I always get what I want - always!"

"He's been saying that all night," Victoria said, grabbing on tight to a bottle. "He even asked for you. Demanded that you report to him."

For the first time, Victoria looked at Diego. He could see her begging him for help.

"Why me?"

Victoria shook her head. "He didn't say."

"That's why I came to the hacienda," Alejandro said.

"Oh," Diego nodded, but he still couldn't figure out why the alcalde sent for him. One way to find out, he thought. "I'll take it to him," he told her, reaching for the wine bottle in her hands.

She nodded and released her grip. Diego approached the alcalde cautiously.

"Alcalde?"

"Wha - Oh, it's you," the alcalde sighed. "Sit down."

Diego placed the bottle at the edge of the table and sat on the far end.

"Do you want to talk?" Diego asked quietly.

For a long moment the alcalde said nothing, just stared.

"Alcalde?"

The alcalde looked at Diego when he mentioned his name.

"Diego," the alcalde sounded like he just saw him. "Join me."

The alcalde poured wine into his cup and drank the whole thing in one gulp before speaking.

"You're an only child, aren't you?"

"As far as I know," Diego answered.

The alcalde nodded while pouring himself another drink. "No brothers." He drank the cup. "No - sisters."

Rosalie, Diego thought. So that's what this is all about.

"Do you realize how lucky you are?" the alcalde asked.

"I don't know," Diego replied. "It's been lonely at times."

"Do you love your family, Diego?"

"What?"

"Your father, cousins, your family. You love them, don't you?"

"Yes, of course, but I don't see - "

"You'd do anything for them, wouldn't you?"

"I suppose - "

"Die for them, even kill for them, if it was in their best interest."

What happened when I left him? he wondered.

"Is there something you want to tell me?"

"Yes," the alcalde answered matter-of-factly. He poured some more wine and took a small drink. "I have a sister."

Out of the corner of his eye, Diego could see the shocked expression on his father and Victoria's faces.

"Really? I didn't know that."

"Rosalie," he said and Diego could hear the love in the alcalde's voice. "She's the sweetest thing on the face of the earth. So delicate, so fragile. She doesn't belong in a place like this where men like me exist. She belongs in Spain and that's where she's going!"

"Where is she now?" Diego asked innocently.

"In jail."

Victoria gasped and Alejandro turned red with anger.

"Alcalde!"

"Oh, please, spare me your gallantry. She's my sister, for crying out loud. You think I'd let any harm come to her? I'd die before I'd let anything or anyone hurt her. She's there for her safety."

"We'll see about that," Alejandro walked out the tavern.

Diego wanted to follow, but he also needed to hear the rest of the alcalde's story.

"Why is she here?"

The alcalde's jaw clenched in anger and he grabbed the bottle and took a long drink before answering Diego.

"She's here because of Miguel Jones." The alcalde said the foreign name with such hatred. Diego had never heard him speak so cruelly even on the subject of Zorro.

"Miguel? Who's Miguel?"

"A dead man."

"What do you mean?" Diego asked.

The alcalde leaned forward. "Right now, Sergeant Mendoza and my men are patrolling Los Angeles looking for him and his little band," he whispered. "When they find them..." The alcalde laughed as he ran his finger across his throat.

"But why?"

The alcalde poured himself another drink and was getting ready to answer.

"Alcalde - "

The door opened and Sergeant Mendoza walked in. It looked as though he had been in a battle. He walked straight over to them and stood at attention before the alcalde.

"Sergeant Mendoza reporting."

"Well," the alcalde looked at him. "Report."

"We found the Americaņos as you requested." Sergeant Mendoza hesitated.

"And?"

"They attacked us. We had no choice but to return their attack. It was a fierce battle, we lost most of our men - "

"The Americaņos!" the alcalde demanded, slamming his fist on the table.

"Dead." Sergeant Mendoza hung his head.

"That's all I wanted to know." The alcalde stood up, using the table for support. He straightened his suit and smiled smugly at Diego and the sergeant. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll tell my sister the good news."

Diego rose up to follow the alcalde but when he saw the sergeant sit down, he decided the alcalde could wait.

"What happened today?" Diego asked quietly.

Sergeant Mendoza rubbed his face and took a deep breath. "This morning a messenger came to the alcalde's office. I thought it was a message in response to the notice about the tax increase, so I took the message to him. I found out later what it was about."

"Mendoza!" the Alcalde called me.

I ran to his office.

"When did this get here?" he held up the letter.

"Just now," I answered.

"Who brought it?"

"A messenger - "

"Male or female?"

"Male, mi alcalde. What's wrong? Bad news?"

"One could say so," the alcalde said, reading the letter.

"Is the governor coming?"

The alcalde looked up. "Bite your tongue. This is much worse. My sister's here."

"Your - sister?"

I didn't know what to say, he never mentioned a sister before.

"Yes, I have a sister who is supposed to be in Spain." He folded up the letter and put it in his pocket. "Get our horses saddled. We are going to see my dear little sister."

"Me, alcalde?"

"Who else is in the room with me?"

I started to answer, but he gave me a bad look.

"Yes, you! You are going with me. As incompetent as you are, I think you know how delicate this matter is and can handle it with the right amount of discretion."

"Alcalde?"

I was confused with what he told me.

"Don't tell anyone. I don't know why my sister is here, but I intend to have her head back for Spain immediately and as quietly as possible."

"Sí, mi alcalde."

I had two horses saddled and went in to inform the alcalde.

"Ready to go," I reported.

He looked at me strangely.

"Sergeant, we are going to see my sister, not collect taxes."

"Alcalde?"

"My sister is very delicate. A fragile rose among cacti. I won't have her bear witness to the dangers of California. At least, those I can prevent. Leave your sword."

"Sí, mi alcalde."

I left my sword in his office. By the time we were ready to leave, a small crowd was outside the garrison. Don Alejandro and the alcalde had a few words then we left for the San Gabriel pass. On the way there, I asked the alcalde why he never mentioned his sister.

"Why would I?" he answered. "My family is my business. Is that understood?"

I nodded. Then out of no where Zorro appeared. It was a very strange meeting. I'm not sure what Zorro wanted, but Roberto rode up to us and told us about Indians riding down the pass. After that, Zorro let us go and we rode to the mission.

"What was that about?" I asked as we rode.

"I don't know and I don't care," the alcalde answered.

"Shouldn't we investigate the Indians?"

"I don't care about the Indians. Let Zorro worry about them if he wants. My main concern right now is my sister."

"Sí, mi alcalde."

We reached the mission and Padre Jose was outside.

"Buenos dias," he greeted us.

"Buenos dias, Padre Jose," the alcalde said. "Is there a young woman staying here with you?"

", a young seņorita. I believe her name is Rosalie."

"Is she here? I'd like to speak with her."

"I'm sorry, alcalde, she went for a walk. I don't know when she'll be back."

"That's all right. May we wait for her?"

"Yes," the padre looked at us strangely. "You may wait inside."

"Gracias," the alcalde nodded and motioned me to follow him.

The alcalde was pacing inside and I didn't know what to do. He finally suggested I help Padre Jose and so I left him there. We were in the garden when a young woman walked up to us.

"Rosalie," the padre said. "I hope your walk was good."

"Sí, padre," she answered. "It was nice. California is so beautiful."

"I'm glad you like it. You have a visitor."

"Oh? Who?"

"The alcalde. You must be very important, Luis Ramone doesn't greet visitors without cause."

"He's here?"

"Yes, right inside. He's waiting for you."

"Gracias, padre." She nodded to both of us and went inside.

I returned to helping the padre when we heard arguing. I couldn't make out the conversation, but the alcalde walked out with the seņorita following.

"Sergeant," he said.

"Sí, mi alcalde?"

I was worried. He sounded so nice. He never sounded that nice before, but I dared not question him.

"We are returning to the pueblo with the seņorita. Thank you, padre, for taking care of her. I'll be handling things from here on."

"Yes, thank you padre," the seņorita said. "You've been so kind."

"Don't mention it. It was a pleasure to have you here."

Padre Jose was nice enough to lend us his burro for Rosalie, yet I ended up riding it. Then, we rode back to the pueblo. When we arrived, it was siesta so no one was around. Then the alcalde did the strangest thing. He helped his sister down, led her straight to the jail, and locked her inside!

"Brother?!"

"Rosalie, this is for your own safety."

"Luis, how dare you!"

"Alcalde?"

"Sergeant, come to my office. I have a very important assignment for you and your men."

I didn't know what to do.

"Seņorita?"

"Don't worry, sergeant," she crossed her arms. "I'll be fine. My brother won't hurt me."

"Sí, seņorita."

I went to the alcalde's office to receive my orders. In all my years in the army, it was the worst job I had ever been given.

"Sergeant Mendoza, remember the Indians Roberto saw?"

"."

"They aren't Indians, they're Americaņos."

"Americaņos?"

", very dangerous Americaņos. They want to take California away from Spain and we can't let that happen now, can we? I want you to take some of your men, find them, and stop them!"

"Sí, mi alcalde."

"It's a very dangerous task I'm asking you to do, but I know you'll do it for Spain. They're desperate, they're liable to say anything, but you must defeat them. California is counting on you."

"Sí, mi alcalde."

"They might be staying at the Indian reservation on the far end of Los Angeles. You know the one I'm talking about? Good. Check there first. As soon as you've taken care of them, let me know."

"."

I gathered up my men and we went searching for them. He was right there where he said they would be and we started fighting. They attacked us, as if they were waiting for us. It was horrible.

Sergeant Mendoza shook his head and sighed.

"Only a handful of us made it out."

"The alcalde said they were here to claim California?" Diego asked.

The sergeant nodded.

"That doesn't make sense. Why would they want California?"

"According to the alcalde, it makes perfect sense," Sergeant Mendoza said. "But there is one thing I can't figure out."

"What?"

"The Americaņos were speaking Spanish and they kept shouting the same word."

"What were they shouting?"

"'Revenge!' Do you know what they meant by it?"

"No, not a clue." But I'm going to find out.

As Diego was trying to sort out the information the sergeant gave him, a woman's scream pierced the pueblo.

Diego ran outside and looked for the source of the scream. He saw Rosalie clutching the bars and watching the center of the plaza. He followed her eyes and saw his father and the alcalde in a fighting stance. They circled each other, testing one another with their blades.

Diego started in shock. He had never seen his father so angry. He knew his father was good with a sword and the alcalde's present condition should give his father the advantage; but he still worried. He recalled the vicious attack the alcalde gave him when he mentioned his sister. He heard a gasp and saw Victoria by his side.

"Stop them!" she pleaded.

Her words broke through his revere and he moved forward, but the acladle spotted him.

"Anyone intereferes and my lancers will deal with you."

Two lancers stood facing Diego. They still wore signs of battle and showed every intention of following the alcalde's orders. All Diego could do was watch and pray his father would survive.

Alejandro saw the opportunity to make a lunge on the alcalde. By skill or luck, the alcalde swerved out of the way. He retallied with a lunge of his own. But his reach was too far and he missed.

They faced each other once again, but the alcalde led the charge. He swung wildly at Alejandro. Alejandro tried to block the blows, but the weight of the strokes was wearing down Aljeandro's defense.

Diego could see the alcalde sensed an opening and was trying to capitilize on it. He tried to push forward, but the lancers stood strong at their posts.

The alcalde kept attacking, but the strokes were more calculated. A brute method; one he had tried on Zorro many times and failed. He could see his father's blade falling down from the pressure of each strike. Lancers or no, he had to act fast.

He pushed forward again and the lancers pushed back. One placed his rifle against Diego's chest. Diego took it from the lancer and pushed him down. The other lancer advanced on Diego. Diego used the butte of the rifle and shoved it into the lancer's midriff. The lancer doubled over in pain.

Diego started to step over the first lancer when his feet were pulled from under him. The lancer held on to Diego's legs and squirmed to avoid the rifle's butte. Diego tried kicking his legs away from the lancer, but to no avail. He raised the rifle in the air and fired. The lancer let go and he returned his attention to the duel.

The alcalde had his back to Diego and raised his sword. Alejandro barely caught the blow in time. Then alcalde lunged forward and Alejandro fell down.

"No!" Victoria screamed.

Diego walked past the alcalde to his father. He knew it was already too late as he knelt down. He covered his face and wondered how he could have let the happened. Please God, let this day repeat, he prayed.

"One de la Vega down," he heard the alcalde laugh.

Diego grew red with anger. His father's sword was lying next to him and Diego picked it up. He rose to face the alcalde.

"Alcalde! I wish to avenge my father."

The alcalde stopped laughing for a moment then laughed even louder.

"Two de la Vegas in one day. This is too good."

Diego advanced on the alcalde. He advanced so fast the alcalde didn't have time to react properly. He stumbled backwards, parrying clumsily. He finally stumbled and fell down. Diego normally would have backed off, but anger clouded his fighting. He stabbed at the alcalde, but he rolled away just in time as the blade struck the dirt. The alcalde finally got to his feet.

"You're good," the alcalde said. "Just like Zorro." Then realization hit. "You are Zorro."

"Good alcalde, but too slow."

Diego lunged forward again, but the alcalde was quicker and blocked the blade. The alcalde changed his tactics and was fighting Diego as he would fight Zorro. Off in the distance, Diego vaguely heard scuffling, but he heard the yelling.

"My - Maria? Maria? Alcalde, you killed my Maria! You will pay for this."

He saw the alcalde move in, ready to strike, so Diego moved to the side to avoid the blade. Then something struck him from behind. He felt searing pain in his back and fell to his knees. He didn't know what hit him but he had a good idea. He looked down and saw red.

This can't be happening again, he thought as the world faded from view.

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