As the smoke cleared, a deafening silence permeated the tavern as shock, amazement and utter disbelief flashed across the faces of not only the patrons, and Alejandro, Felipe, Diego, DeSoto, and Sergeant Mendoza, but also on the faces of the hombres as their eyes momentarily became glued to Victoria standing behind the bar tightly clutching her shotgun and looking extremely angry. Victoria slowly lowered her shotgun and carefully took aim at the hombres and slowly pulled back the hammer.
"All right you bunch of grimy-looking, good-for-nothing, swines drop those guns right now or I'll blow you away so fast you won't know what hit you and I might add, I'm a pretty good shot!" she snarled.
The four hombres looked hesitantly at one another and then anxiously at Victoria as they noticed the determined look on her face.
Diego quickly analyzing the situation, calmly walked over to the bar beside Victoria and cast a resolute look at the hombres.
"Gentlemen, I would suggest that you do as the señorita says! She means business!" he nodded affirmatively, as he fixed a stern gaze on the hombres.
DeSoto quickly rose from his seat, drew his sword and dashed over beside Diego and thrust his sword into the faces of the hombres.
"And so do I señores!" he growled gripping the hilt of his sword, keeping a steady blade on his opponents.
Mendoza peering out from under the table, saw DeSoto and Victoria holding the men at gun and sword point and quickly jumped up and ran over beside DeSoto and drew his sword.
"Me too señores!" he chimed in as he accidentally tripped, lunging forward and poked one of the men in the arm.
The man grabbed his arm in pain and quickly dropped his gun. The other three hombres' eyes widened in surprise and they too slowly dropped their guns to the floor.
Diego, DeSoto and Mendoza quickly picked up their guns and pointed them at the hombres.
Victoria seeing that the situation was finally under control, lowered her gun and eyed the hombres sternly.
"What's the big idea you coming into my tavern making all this noise and shooting up the place?!!!" Victoria inquired angrily.
One of the hombres looked at Victoria anxiously and shrugged his shoulders. "We are sorry señorita! We were just having a bit of fun! We didn't mean to scare anyone!" he replied regretfully.
DeSoto eyed the hombre smugly. "Fun eh? Let's see how fun you think it is spending some time in jail for disturbing the peace!!!" he replied firmly.
At that moment a few soldiers came storming in and immediately at DeSoto's command along with Sergeant Mendoza arrested the boisterous hombres and headed them out of the tavern.
Before they left, Diego called out to Mendoza. "Sergeant I don't think I'll be needing this gun!" he commented as he tossed the gun to Mendoza.
As Mendoza turned to catch the gun, the gun suddenly slipped from his hands and fell to the floor and accidentally discharged sending everyone scattering in all directions and ducking for cover.
After the noise subsided and everyone made sure no one was accidentally shot, DeSoto picked up the gun and flashed an angry look a Mendoza.
"You imbecile! You almost got us killed! You idiot!" DeSoto shouted angrily as he slapped Mendoza over the top of his head with his hand.
"I'm sorry mi Alcalde! I didn't mean to drop it! It was an accident!" Mendoza replied woefully.
Diego feeling sorry for Mendoza walked over and put a reassuring hand on his shoulder and smiled.
"It's ok Sergeant. At least no one was hurt, thank goodness! Just be a little more careful next time." He commented earnestly.
Mendoza looked at Diego remorsefully and sighed. "Gracias Diego. Sí, I will try to be more careful!"
As DeSoto and his men were marching the hombres out the door, he turned and hollered for Mendoza.
Mendoza suddenly startled, fumbled with his hat and raced off to catch up with DeSoto.
Diego shook his head and sighed and walked back to the bar and leaned casually up against it and gazed in amazement at Victoria and smiled.
As Victoria carefully put away her gun, she glanced up and happened to notice Diego staring at her. She slightly blushed and smiled.
"Can I get something for you Diego?" she said, brushing a strand of hair from her eyes.
Diego shook his head and smiled. "Oh no thank you Victoria. Say, you certainly surprised those tough-looking hombres, not to mention everyone else in the tavern! I couldn't believe my eyes! That was amazing!" Diego commented enthusiastically.
Victoria slightly blushed and smiled. "Oh it was really nothing! I just couldn't let those ruffians come in here and tear up the place! I have to protect my interest Diego! Besides, if it hadn't been for you, the Alcalde, and Mendoza, those men probably would have taken advantage of me!" Victoria replied modestly.
Diego slightly shook his head and smiled. "Oh I doubt that! You looked pretty tough standing there holding that shotgun! Even I was a little nervous!" he chuckled.
Victoria laughed and shook her head. "Actually I was just as nervous as you were! But like the saying goes, you do what you have to do, and I did!" she replied resolutely. She slightly sighed and shook her head.
"Well, it's all over now, thank goodness!" she stated smiling. She turned to the rest of her patrons and smiled. "Hey everybody, come on up get some drinks, they're on the house!" she called out and motioned toward the bar.
All at once the bottoms of the chair legs scraped loudly against the floor and a clamor of feet arose as everyone except Alejandro and Felipe, jumped up and raced to the bar to take advantage of Victoria's generosity. Alejandro, Diego, and Felipe all walked around behind the bar and mmediately began helping Victoria pour the drinks for her very thirsty patrons.
After everyone was served and graciously thanked Victoria, they took their drinks and sat back down to their tables. Victoria sighed and shook her head and smiled. She looked at her three friends and shrugged her shoulders.
"Thanks for the help guys! It was the least I could I do after what happened!" She stated earnestly.
Alejandro gently patted her on the hand and smiled. "Think nothing of it! That's why your tavern is such a success, you treat your patrons with such generosity and respect! Not to mention, there's never a dull moment!" Alejandro chuckled. Diego and Felipe nodded in agreement.
Victoria nodded also. "That's very true Alejandro! There's something going on all the time!" she replied smiling. "Say, why don't you all help yourselves to something! I'm sure you're pretty thirsty after serving that crowd!" she stated warmly.
Alejandro slightly nodded and smiled. "Thank you Victoria, don't mind if I do! Come on Diego, Felipe, let's get something to drink!" Alejandro stated smiling. He walked over and found some glasses and poured Felipe some juice and then poured a drink for himself, Diego and Victoria. Victoria smiled and thanked him.
Alejandro lifted his glass and proposed a toast. "Here's to Victoria and her tavern! The greatest tavern and its most beautiful owner in all of pueblo de Los Angeles!" Alejandro, Diego and Felipe raised their glasses and clinked them together as Victoria smiled and modestly blushed.
After they finished their drinks, Diego momentarily glanced around the tavern and then gazed at Victoria and smiled. "You know Victoria, father's right! This is a great tavern, and you are beautiful!" he stated as he lightly kissed her hand.
Victoria smiled and slightly blushed. "Why thank you Diego! How sweet of you to say that! She replied modestly as she gazed back at Diego.
As they stood gazing at one another for a moment, Diego slightly blinked and smiled at Victoria.
"Well, I hate to break up this party, but I just remembered that I have some unfinished business back at the hacienda." Diego replied earnestly.
Victoria sighed and shook her head and looked at Diego somewhat disconcerted. "Right now Diego? Can't it wait until later? I was going to treat you, Alejandro and Felipe to one of my special dinners!" she replied somewhat disheartened.
Diego sighed and put a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "Don't worry Victoria, it won't take long! I wouldn't miss your cooking for anything! After all, you're the best cook in all the pueblo!" Diego replied earnestly and smiled.
"Well, ok! But don't you be late!" Victoria stated pretending to be stern. She slightly smiled as she looked at Diego.
"I wouldn't dream of it!" he replied resolutely and smiled.
As Diego was about to leave he gave a quick wink to Felipe who had been watching them conversing, and waved good-bye. Alejandro glanced around and saw Diego walking out of the tavern and cast an inquisitive look at Victoria.
"Say Victoria, where is Diego going in such a hurry?" he inquired.
Victoria slightly shrugged her shoulders and shook her head.
"All he said was that he had some unfinished business back at the hacienda. But he did say that he would be back in time for dinner." Victoria stated.
Alejandro looked at Victoria resolutely and smiled. "Don't worry Victoria. Diego probably had some book he just had to finish reading! He'll be back! Say, did I hear you say something about a dinner?" he inquired as his eyes widened with anticipation.
Victoria laughed and shook her head. "Sí Alejandro! I'm going to fix you boys the best dinner you ever had!" she replied smiling.
Alejandro turned to Felipe and looked at him intently. "Felipe, why don't you see if you can help Señorita Escalante in the kitchen!" he said slowly as motioned to Victoria.
Felipe nodded and looked at Victoria and smiled. Victoria looked at Felipe and nodded and motioned for him to follow her to the kitchen.
Most of Victoria's other customers had left for the evening except for a few stragglers here and there, so Victoria and Felipe made an extra batch of soup for them and promptly fed them. After they left, she and Felipe quickly went to work preparing her special dinner.
While her dinner was cooking, Alejandro and Felipe helped Victoria spread out her best tablecloth and set out her favorite china, silverware and glasses. This was going to be a special dinner and Victoria wanted everything to be just perfect. She even set a small bouquet of flowers on the table for a decoration.
As they set out the delicious smelling food before them, Victoria momentarily paused and noticed that Diego had not returned.
"Alejandro, I can't imagine where Diego is! He said he wouldn't be late!" Victoria remarked rather upset.
Alejandro looked at Victoria reassuringly. "Oh I wouldn't worry about Diego, he's probably wrapped up in some of his books and forgot what time it was. I'm sure he'll be along shortly." Alejandro stated earnestly.
"Well, If we don't eat now, the food will be cold!" she stated emphatically as she shook her head.
They finally sat down and began eating. A few hours passed and still no Diego. By now Victoria was getting a bit perturbed that Diego had missed her special dinner that she had prepared for them. Alejandro reassured her that sometimes at home, he didn't eat dinner until later because he would often get wrapped up in some project he was doing and forget the time. She shook her head and sighed and continued eating.
After dinner, Alejandro and Felipe helped Victoria clear her table and clean and put away her dishes. Alejandro felt it was the least he and Felipe could do after Victoria had cooked that 'fantastic' dinner.
"Well Victoria, you really outdid yourself tonight! That was delicious! Thank you for inviting us for dinner!" Alejandro responded warmly. Felipe nodded in agreement and smiled.
Victoria smiled at Alejandro and Felipe. "Thank you for helping! Especially you Felipe! I had no idea you were such good help in the kitchen! If you ever get tired of helping out at the hacienda, you could always help me!" she replied amiably as she smiled at Felipe.
Felipe slightly blushed and shrugged his shoulders and smiled.
Victoria momentarily sighed with a wistful look on her face and shook her head. "Too bad Diego missed my dinner! I wonder what could have happened?" she inquired anxiously.
Alejandro gently patted Victoria's hand and smiled warmly. "I'll have a talk with him when I get home! Maybe he just forgot! He gets like that sometimes! Anyway, it was very good! Thank you again Victoria!" Alejandro responded amiably.
"De nada Alejandro! I'm glad you and Felipe enjoyed it! Buenas noches!" she replied warmly.
Victoria walked her two friends to the door and bid them farewell and closed the door and locked it. She slowly gazed about the tavern and reflected upon the events of the day and sighed and shook her head. She walked over and picked up her broom and began sweeping up the dust and crumbs that so often liter her tavern floor after a busy day.
As she swept, she couldn't quit thinking about what had happened to Diego. She thought it was very unusual that he didn't show up. He always made it a point to come to anything special she was having at the tavern or anything she invited him to.
'Oh well, maybe it was like Alejandro said, maybe he just forgot!' she thought as she continued sweeping.
When she had finished, she was just about to put her broom away when she suddenly heard a slight noise behind the curtains in her kitchen. Victoria quickly positioned her broom with the head up and firmly gripped the handle and slowly crept toward the curtains bracing herself for whoever was in her kitchen.