Todd felt a hand gently shaking his shoulder. "Wake up, amigo," Don Diego said. "It’s time."
Todd yawned and stretched. He rubbed his eyes. "I’m sleepy," he muttered.
"I know," Don Diego said. "But we must have everything ready before the sun rises. Felipe is already in the cave, waiting for you and Allison."
Todd yawned again and sat up. He shoved the bedcovers toward his knees. "I gotta get dressed," he murmured.
Don Diego nodded. "I’ll wait for you in the cave." He left the room.
Todd put on the gray jeans, white sneakers, and light-blue T-shirt he had worn when he and Allison were first transported back to 1820. Since the de la Vega laundress had washed and ironed them the day before, they smelled clean and fresh. He combed his hair. He checked his backpack to make sure it had everything, then slung it onto his shoulders. He snatched the puppy and carried her out.
Todd joined Allison in the hall. She had put on her blue plaid jumper, her pink T-shirt, her yellow sneakers, her Mickey Mouse watch, her imitation pearl necklace, and her barrette. "I want to sleep with the puppy tonight," Allison said. "You got to sleep with her, last night!" She pouted.
Todd shrugged. "OK. Come on; Don Diego’s waiting."
The children hurried to Zorro’s cave, where they found Don Diego tying the mask on his face. Felipe was saddling Toronado. He glanced at the children and smiled a greeting.
Zorro glanced at the puppy and shook his head. "Todd, I want you to leave the puppy in here. She’ll be in the way if you take her with you."
"No, Zorro!" Todd begged. "I want to take her! If the weather conditions are right, we can’t waste even a second! I’ll keep her quiet, I promise!"
Zorro stood gazing at him and said nothing.
"Please, Don Diego, can we take the puppy?" Allison begged. "Please, please? Pretty please?"
Zorro smiled, but not in consent. "In Spanish, Allison, we say ‘por favor.’"
"Por favor, then?"
Zorro shook his head; though understanding, his voice was also firm. "The puppy might bark, and then we would be discovered. You’ll have to leave her here until we return."
Todd felt frustrated. He pursed his lips and turned his back on Zorro. He and Allison just had to take the puppy along! Suppose this was the morning to return to 1998? How could Zorro order them to risk losing the puppy like this?
As Todd glared rebelliously at the floor, he saw a long strip of black silk lying at his feet. He glanced furtively at Zorro; he was in the secret passage, giving Felipe some instructions.
Slowly, so as to avoid attracting attention, Todd bent over, picked up the strip of cloth, and muzzled the puppy’s jaws with it. He unzipped his backpack, gently laid the puppy in it, held his index finger to his lips, and zipped the backpack. The stone floor felt cold to his hands as he pressed them on the floor to balance himself.
He slung the backpack on his shoulders and joined Zorro and Felipe. Zorro turned around and smiled at him. "Are you ready, Todd?" Todd nodded. "Good. Allison, let’s go! We’re ready."
"Coming!" Allison darted into the tunnel.
"Will there be room for us all?" Todd pointed at Toronado.
Zorro chuckled. "That won’t be necessary. Red Rock Canyon isn’t far from here at all. Felipe will walk with you children, and I’ll ride Toronado. Do you children have the gadgets ready?"
The children nodded. Todd held up his Walkman and walkie-talkie; Allison held up hers.
"Good. Let’s go, then."
Zorro led the way out of the secret passage into the canyon. As Felipe and the children followed him on foot, Todd hoped that Zorro wouldn’t notice the extra, wiggling bulge in his backpack.
The sky in the east slowly lightened. Dawn was not far away. Minutes after leaving the passage, Zorro stopped Toronado. Felipe raised his hand to stop Todd and Allison.
Zorro dismounted and approached Felipe and the children. "Zorro, look!" Todd whispered. "Look, Felipe! Look at the sky! It’s just like it was when we first came here. To 1820!"
Zorro and Felipe glanced at the sky, and Zorro nodded. The sky had the same brassy appearance it had had when the children were transported to 1820.
"Indeed it is," Zorro whispered back. "Do you wish to go to the cave, now?"
Todd and Allison looked at each other and shook their heads. "We want to help you, first," Allison said.
Zorro nodded. "We must work fast, then, if we’re to get you children to the time cave before the weather conditions dissipate. Todd, Allison, you stay right here where the soldiers can’t see you. Felipe will set up the diversion on the ridge. Make sure the soldiers can’t see you, Felipe."
Felipe nodded. Todd handed Felipe his walkie-talkie; Felipe disappeared. Zorro looked at the children and put a finger to his lips, then led Toronado away.
Todd and Allison crouched behind the rocks. "Zorro and Felipe sure are brave," whispered Todd.
"I hope your plan works," Allison whispered back. "We’ve just got to help Rosita and Elena!"
As Zorro left, the scene up ahead came into view; at the same time, the sun rose over the horizon. The Indian men were digging a hole in the ground with picks and shovels. The Indian women and children carried away the mounds of dirt in buckets hanging from yokes they wore on their necks. Some toted water jars, and held them to the lips of thirsty diggers.
Soldiers stood guard over the Indians, armed with rifles and whips. Again and again, some of the soldiers slashed a slow Indian in the back, shouting at him to hurry.
"Those poor Indians!" Allison whispered fiercely. "How could those soldiers be so mean to them!" She stuck out her tongue at the soldiers.
Todd nodded. "It’s all the alcalde’s fault. He’s the one who’s really mean!"
"Where’s Rosita and Elena? I can’t see them."
Todd held his finger over his lips. "Shh! If the soldiers find us, we’ll go back to jail." Allison nodded.
Todd laid down his Walkman on the boulder before him and clutched Allison’s walkie-talkie. As the children waited, the sun slowly rose above the horizon; the sky gradually lightened further, though it still looked brassy. The breeze whispered as it brushed Todd’s cheeks and ruffled his bangs. Todd yawned and rubbed his eyes. I’m still sleepy!
"I see them!" Allison whispered. "I see Rosita and Elena! They’re carrying water to the men!" She pointed. "See?"
Todd nodded. He saw the two girls toting clay jars of water from digger to digger.
Minutes later, the children saw Felipe raise his right hand and hold his index finger and thumb together. Todd’s walkie-talkie was in place. It was time to begin.
Todd grinned at Allison, and the two muffled their snickers. "Watch this, Allison!" he whispered.
He switched on the walkie-talkie and made a spooky, wailing sound in it. As he did, the soldiers froze and glanced around nervously. In the distance behind them, Todd saw Zorro moving from rock to rock, getting ever closer to the Indians themselves.
Todd paused a moment, then wailed again. This time, Allison joined in.
"Madre Maria!" Sergeant Mendoza’s voice sounded far off. "What was that?"
The children looked at each other and smothered their giggles. Then they wailed some more.
"The canyon is haunted!" the sergeant cried. "We’re in danger!"
Sergeant Mendoza and the other soldiers unsheathed their swords and stared in the direction of Todd’s walkie-talkie. Unable to see the source of the scary noise, they gaped at one another. The children made the spooky wailing sounds again.
Meanwhile, Zorro reached the Indians. One by one, he unchained them. "How’d he get the key to unlock their chains?" Allison whispered.
"I heard him tell Felipe, yesterday, that he was going to visit the cuartel and borrow it," Todd whispered back. "He must have done it while we were asleep."
"He never did get to sleep, then." Allison looked concerned. "Poor Don Diego! I bet he’s real sleepy, sleepier than us. Staying up all night looking for us, four nights ago. Then staying up all night again, last night, getting the key to free the Indians!"
Todd repeated the spooky wailing sound again and again. As he did, the Indians crept away, and so did Zorro. At that moment, Sergeant Mendoza turned around and saw the Indians sneaking off. "The Indians are escaping!" he shouted. "Seize them!"
Todd felt alarmed. They had to stop Sergeant Mendoza!
He snatched his Walkman and pressed the play button. He held Allison’s walkie-talkie close to it. Zorro’s voice, disguised, came from the cassette: "Soldiers, you have disturbed the spirit that guards these Indians. Indeed, he is very angry! Unless you release the mission Indians, he will kill you!" The ghostly voice echoed throughout the canyon. Todd and Allison smothered giggles.
All but two of the privates panicked and fled the canyon. Sergeant Mendoza, though trembling, stayed with the two remaining lancers. At that moment, Zorro, who had crept onto a boulder above their heads, jumped down in front of them.
"Yes!" he announced. "The spirit who guards these Indians is very angry! And I am that spirit!"
"Zorro!" Sergeant Mendoza cried. "Seize him!" he ordered the two lancers.
Zorro grinned and unsheathed his saber. He swung it upward in a salute, then fought the soldiers. As the children watched from behind the boulders, his saber clanged repeatedly against their rapiers. While Zorro and the soldiers fenced, the last of the mission Indians disappeared from sight.
Finally, one by one, Zorro’s saber sent the rapiers flying out of the soldiers’ hands. Zorro held the tip of his sword against Sergeant Mendoza’s chest.
"You give the alcalde this message for me!" Zorro said sternly. "Tell him that if he ever troubles the mission Indians again, for any reason, he’s a dead man!"
"Si, Senor Zorro," Sergeant Mendoza promised. His hands shook.
Todd suddenly grinned; Allison looked at him questioningly. "Watch this, Allison!" he whispered.
He unzipped his backpack and removed his popgun. Holding it near the walkie-talkie, he pulled the trigger. Pop! Pop! Pop! resounded from the boulders, startling Zorro and frightening the soldiers.
Allison muffled her snickers. She snatched her walkie-talkie from Todd and made a high-pitched squeal. The soldiers darted here and there, shaking in evident terror. The children snickered again, and grinned at each other.
Slowly, cautiously, Todd and Allison stuffed the Walkman, walkie-talkie, and popgun into their backpacks. When they had finished, Todd glanced at the sky. It still looked brassy; a few white clouds floated in the distance. It was time to go.
A sudden Yip! Yip! Yip! startled the soldiers. Todd hastily unzipped his backpack and peeked inside. To his dismay, the puppy had managed to rub the silk strip off her muzzle and was barking shrilly!
"Quiet, puppy!" Todd hissed. "You’re going to get us in trouble!" He grasped the puppy’s muzzle, which the puppy struggled to free. "I said, be quiet!"
"Sergeant!" one of the soldiers shouted. "I see the americano children! They’re hiding in the rocks over there!"
"Well, seize them!" Sergeant Mendoza shouted.
As Todd zipped the backpack shut and slung it onto his back, he watched Zorro out of the corner of his eye. Zorro grabbed a handful of dirt and flung it into the soldiers’ faces. The soldiers howled and cursed, as they rubbed their eyes. Zorro tripped Sergeant Mendoza.
"Run, children!" Zorro shouted. "I will divert the lancers! Run and save yourselves!"
The children scrambled to their feet and fled. As they raced up the canyon toward the other one, Todd felt terrified. He and Allison had to get back to the time cave before the soldiers caught up with them!
Minutes later, the children darted through the mouth of the first canyon and rushed toward the time cave. As they reached it, they found Felipe standing in front. He handed Todd his walkie-talkie.
"Thanks, Felipe." Todd stuffed it into his pocket. "Now, run! Go back to Zorro’s cave! Hide!"
Felipe nodded and rushed off. The children dashed into the time cave and hid behind some boulders. Todd prayed that the soldiers would not find them there, or find Zorro’s cave. As Todd leaned against the boulder, the ground shook violently, and a blinding flash of light flooded the cave. He grabbed Allison and scrooged his eyes shut.
A moment later, the earthquake and the flash of light ceased abruptly. Todd opened his eyes, leaned against the cave wall, and looked around. Spots danced before his eyes, and the walls seemed to whirl around him.
"Come on." After the dizziness left him, Todd rose and helped Allison to her feet. "Let’s go."
He led the way out of the cave. As the children stepped outside, they froze. The fence rimmed the top of the canyon, and the houses and telephone poles stood in back of it.
Todd felt like shouting. They were back in their own time!
"We’re back in 1998!" Allison squealed. "Look! The fence is back!"
"Yes!" Todd leaped and flung out his hands. "The smog is back, too! See?"
Allison looked. Sure enough, it was. The thick gray blanket loomed over the horizon.
The children raced toward the secret entrance. They found their jackets lying on the same boulder where they had laid them. After the children wriggled into them, Allison stomped on the lever, and the secret door swung open. The children rushed inside, then darted up the tunnel toward Zorro’s lab.
The lab was pitch-black, and the air felt stuffy. "Look!" Todd switched on his flashlight and swung it in an arc. "The cave is dark and empty, and it’s got cobwebs. We’re back! We’re back!" He leaped and threw his arms upward.
The children raced toward the secret door. Todd pressed the secret button on the candleholder, and the door swung open. Todd led the way into the library.
It was once again a family room. The TV set stood in the corner just as it had before. Todd glanced at the desk calendar that lay on the coffee table. "’June 15, 1998,’" he read out loud. "Hey! That’s the same day we went to 1820!"
"And look at the clock!" Allison pointed at the wall clock. "It says eleven o’clock. It’s only been thirty minutes since we went to the secret cave with our backpacks!" Allison hastily reset her Mickey Mouse watch, then held it up to her ear. "It’s working!"
Todd sank into a velvet armchair, weak with relief. "Then we won’t have to explain to Aunt Alice and Uncle Ted where we’ve been. They haven’t missed us at all!" Allison nodded.
Todd unzipped his backpack and removed the puppy. For a moment, he cuddled the wiggling puppy in his lap and grinned at Allison. As he set the puppy on the floor, it raced in circles, chasing its tail. The children laughed as they watched. They then removed the toys the padre had given them and gazed at them.
"I’ll never forget Padre Benitez." Allison held the doll up and straightened its skirt.
"I’ll never forget any of them." Todd gazed at his wooden toy soldier, then tossed his balero above his head and caught it. "I especially liked Don Diego. And Felipe."
"Me, too." Allison put the doll back in her backpack, then frowned. "Uh, how are we going to explain the puppy?"
Todd thought a moment. "We’ll, uh, tell them someone gave her to us. Some boy." He grinned. "And that’ll be the truth!" Allison nodded assent.
"The mission church we’re going to visit—think it’ll be the same one Padre Benitez ran?" Allison picked up the puppy.
"I hope it will be." Todd stuffed his soldier in his backpack. "I bet it is! Uncle Ted said it was two miles east of here, remember? In 1820, so was Los Angeles! If it is the same church, it’ll be neat to see if it looks the same. Maybe the man who gives the tour will talk about Padre Benitez." He grinned. "I’m going to have lots of questions if he does."
"Me, too." Allison cuddled the puppy against her chest. "I’d like to know how Los Angeles got so big."
"And how the United States took over California."
Allison sat silently for a few minutes. "It was neat to go to 1820, but I wouldn’t want to do it again. I’m never going back to that cave."
Todd nodded agreement. "Me, neither. We might not be able to get back a second time. You know, Allison, watching Batman’ll sure feel different, now!"
The front door clicked open; Uncle Ted and Aunt Alice stepped into the family room. "Well, children," Uncle Ted said cheerfully, "are you ready?" He froze and stared at the puppy. "Where on earth did that puppy come from?"
Allison glanced nervously at Todd.
"A boy gave her to us while you were gone." Todd glanced down at the puppy. "I guess he couldn’t keep her, himself. Please, can we?"
Uncle Ted paused to think. Aunt Alice stood quietly and gazed at him. Allison looked at him beseechingly and twisted her necklace. Todd squeezed his hands together till his knuckles turned white.
At last, Uncle Ted glanced at his wife and chuckled. "If no one claims the puppy, I have no objection. Do you, dear?" Aunt Alice smiled and shook her head.
Uncle Ted turned serious. "Children, I’ll let you keep the puppy on two conditions. That you housebreak the puppy yourselves, and that you make no more complaints about visiting historical sites. Do we have a deal?" The children nodded.
"Good. Because we’re going to visit some more historical sites while you’re here, as well as Disneyland, Hollywood, the beach, and those other places. What do you want to name the puppy?"
Todd and Allison thought a moment. "I have an idea!" Allison cried. "Let’s call her ‘Amigo’!"
Uncle Ted chuckled. "Allison, if the puppy’s a girl, the correct name would be ‘Amiga.’ That’s what female friends are called in Spanish."
"And male friends are called ‘amigo’?" Todd asked.
"OK. We’ll call her Amiga." Todd rubbed the puppy’s head; the puppy licked his hand. "Hi, Amiga!" He winked at Allison, who grinned. "In memory of our amigos from 1820," he whispered in Allison’s ear. Allison grinned and nodded agreement.
"Amiga’s so cute," Allison said. "She’s just six weeks old."
Uncle Ted glanced at the clock. "All right, kids, let’s go. Since the puppy’s not housebroken yet, we’ll put her in a box until we come back. We’ll eat lunch at a nearby Mexican restaurant, first. Then we’ll go visit the mission. Ready?"
Todd and Allison nodded and leaped to their feet. After Todd laid down the puppy in a large cardboard box, the children followed their aunt and uncle out the door. Todd and Allison grinned at each other. Todd could hardly wait to see the old mission!
© 1998, by Kathy Green