A New Beginning
Chapter One

The vicious acts committed by Miguel Ramirez and Licenciado Pina came to a violent end with the death of Don Miguel and Pina's arrest. The prisoner was taken to the cuartel and placed in jail until the governor could arrange for a speedy trial.  The de la Vega household was now at peace except for the elder Ramirez.  Don Carlos was deeply grieved by the death of his only child yet he could not stand by and allow Miguel's crimes to continue.  Don Carlos had picked up the gun dropped by Pina and moments later his son lay motionless on the stone tiles.  No amount of comfort could ease the pain he suffered. 
Don Carlos arranged to leave the rancho after the sad affair and return to Los Angeles with the soldiers.  Before departing he extended his sincere apologies to Don Alejandro and the others.  With deep sadness the elderly don made his final farewell.  Once situated in the pueblo the don planned to make arrangements to bury his son and return to Spain. 

Later that evening a heavy cloud covering hung over the rancho as the household retired for the evening except for Bernardo, Diego's faithful friend and mozo.  While cleaning up the patio he heard footsteips and suddenly turned to see Anna Maria restlessly waundering about the patio.  Catching her eye Bernardo waved for her to join him.  Offering her a seat Bernardo listened compassionately as she spoke of her fears for Diego.  During the commandante's recupteration at the de la Vega hacienda Capitan Monastario seemed a changed man but was he?   Could he be trusted to keep his word that Diego was Zorro...or would the capitan return to his treacherous ways and see Diego led to the gallows?  Bernardo reached for Anna Maria's hand yet the assurances he offered could not take away the fearful look in her eyes.

Earlier in the evening when the commotion ended Zorro rode unobserved by the soldiers into the pueblo to make sure Pina was safely put in jail.  Now on his return to the rancho the dark, shadowy figure quickly made his way through the secret passage anxious to see his wife.  As he entered his room he called to Anna Maria but she was not there.  Diego bound out the door and down the stairs where he saw Bernardo and Anna Maria sitting together.  Bernardo smiled when he saw Diego and stood to leave allowing his young friends time alone. 

In just a few months Anna Maria would give birth to her first child.  Already there had been one incident when the doctor was summoned to examine an ill Anna Maria.   However only caution and rest were advised. Would the stress from the past few days cause another incident? As Diego looked down at his young wife he felt uneasy and thought to himself, "Will Anna Maria and I ever be able to lead a normal life with our child?"

Diego drew Anna Maria close until their lips met in a warm passionate kiss.  For a brief moment everything was perfect until the sound of boots scrapping over the stone patio tiles took the couple by surprise.  The lovers quickly separated and turned to see the robust, bumbling Sergeant Garcia coming toward them with a wily new confidence in his unshaven, stubbly face.

"Buenos noches Sergeant," said Diego.  "I thought you returned to the cuartel with your men hours ago."

"Ah Don Diego, Senora," Garcia said removing his hat.  "Si, I rode into the pueblo with the others but returned with two lancers to guard the governor.  We would want nothing to happen to his Excellency, now would we?"

"No, no of course not," agreed Diego.

Sergeant Garcia continued to make pleasant conversation but in the back of his mind another matter stood out.  For so long he had sought the identity of the bandit, ZORRO.  Now he believed Don Diego was this illusive, black devil.  The idea came to him during the intense duel between young Ramirez and Capitan Monastario.  The intimate looks and touches shared between Anna Maria and Zorro awakened in him the loving moments he noticed shared between Don Diego and his wife.  Moreover the physical resemblance of Don Diego to Zorro was startling.  The build, height, coloring even the thin mustache.  Few in the pueblo met this description.  Garcia smiled to himself when he remembered how playful Zorro could be not unlike the good humored Don Diego.  It all finally came together in his mind.  What a predicament!  Everyone including himself had benefited from Zorro's handiwork.  More important Don Diego was his good friend.  Now Garcia would have to decide between duty and friendship.

Anna Maria stood ghost-like watching the two men as they spoke.  There was something about the way the sergeant looked at Diego.  She wondered if it was possible that Sergeant Garcia was aware of Diego's secret life.  She shuddered to think of the terrifying words Garcia might utter next.

"Don Diego de la Vega, you are under arrest for being the outlaw known as Zorro."

The very thought of those words made her head spin.  Uneasy Anna Maria took a step closer to Diego before collapsing in his strong arms. 

"Sergeant, send one of the lancers into the pueblo for Dr. Avila," called out Diego frightened.

"At once Don Diego," shouted Garcia as he stomped toward the entrance calling to the lancers.

The loud disturbance on the patio brought the occupants of the hacianda from their rooms. 

"Diego," cried Alejandro rushing toward his helpless son.  "What has happened?"

"Father," began Diego lifting Anna Maria into his arms.  "Anna Maria collapsed while we were speaking to Sergeant Garcia.  The sergeant has sent for the doctor.  I fear the stress has been too much for her. I am going to take her to our room and wait until Dr. Avila arrives."

Slowly Diego climbed the stairs past Leonar and the governor.  Bernardo who was standing close to Diego's father turned to look as Alejandro muttered to himself, "Madre dios, the child."