A New Beginning
                                                               Chapter 16

Capitan Monastario spent a long, sleepless night on the patio at the de la Vega hacienda.  Wherever Leonar was being held the commandante hoped she knew he would do everything he could to find her.  All too soon the morning light drove away the dark sky leaving the terror from the previous day emblazoned in Monastario's mind and heart.  Sadly a full day had past and the commandante was no closer to finding the woman he loved.  On the balcony outside the nursery Diego and Anna Maria held each other close just as they did throughout the night.  Slowly the two descended the stairs to the patio where they spied a single figure sitting in an isolated corner.

"It appears the commandante has been here all night," whispered Diego.  "Anna Maria, please go into the dining room without me.  I wish to have a moment with the Capitan."

After giving Anna Maria a reassuring kiss, Diego made his way to Monastario.  It was hard for Diego to believe this man was once the heartless monster who terrorized the people of Los Angeles. 

"Capitan," Diego said standing next to the commandante's chair.

"De la Vega," said the commandante looking up at Diego.  "I was going to return with my men to the cuartel last night but..."

"I understand," Diego responded.  "Waiting for word from the kidnappers is very difficult."  

"Si, it is hard," said Monastario.  "I feel as though I have not done enough, that I should have stopped these men before anything happened."

"You cannot blame yourself," interrupted Diego. "There was nothing anyone could do.  Who could foresee these men would be brazen enough to do such a thing.  Leonar was not meant to be the victim.  It was my family they wished to hurt." 

"It does not matter.  Right now we must concentrate on finding Leonar and your child.  Nothing else matters."

"You are right," said Diego extending a hand in friendship.  "Working together we will bring my child and Leonar safely home."

Outside Diego's room Bernardo stood shaking out one of his master's jackets when he noticed something outside the compound moving in the direction of the hacienda.  Bernardo stood mesmerized as the object moved closer until he realized it was a someone running.  The figure weaved from side to side and fell several times.  Running down the stairs Bernardo motioned to Diego and Monastario to follow him.  At the main gate the two men watched while Bernardo opened the door to allow the man to enter.  There in dirty, tattered clothes and breathing rapidly was one of the mission Indians, Paco.  Diego and Monastario grabbed the man who could barely stand and brought him into the main house.  The commotion brought Don Alejandro and the others from the dining room.  

"Senores and senora," said the Indian gulping the contents of the glass handed to him by Bernardo.  "Padre Felipe sent me.  The men they have the padre."

"The men," questioned Diego.  "What men?"

"The bad men that came to the mission yesterday with two women.  The men are very bad."

"Pablo and Quintana," thought Diego.  "Did one of the women have a child?"

"They both had little ones," replied the Indian.

"I will send one of the vaqueros into the pueblo to get Sergeant Garcia and his men," Don Alejandro said forcefully.

"No Father," stated Diego.  "This may not be the same men but If we charge the mission they surely will harm the padre."

"Diego, you must do something," Anna Maria said tearfully. 

"Do not cry, mi amor," Diego said taking Anna Maria in his arms.  "If these men hold my daughter and Leonar they will not have them for long.  Anna Maria, remain here with your father and Don Alejandro while Bernardo, the Capitan and I pay a visit to the mission.  Remember not a word to Sergeant Garcia."

"We will say nothing," spoke Don Alejandro.  "Be careful my son."

"The element of surprise is ours and we will take full advantage," replied Diego.

Turning to the mission Indian Diego asked, "Paco, will you return to the mission and help us?"

"Si patron," smiled Paco.  "The men watch the road but I have a way into the mission that is a "secret".

The four men made their goodbyes and headed out to the patio where Diego and Bernardo went straight to Diego's room while the commandante followed by Paco went to the stables.  Several minutes later Diego, riding Tornado. and Bernardo joined the capitan for the ride to the mission.  With Paco's knowledge of the church grounds Diego and the commandante hoped they might sneak into the mission undetected by the banditos.  Thanks to Paco the men felt more confident and were determined to formulate a plan that would release the captives safely.  However even the most perfect plan may go amiss.         

At the mission Leonar watched as Melita placed Maria Isabella in the makeshift cradle next to her own small son.  The infant girl closed her eyes and fell peacefully to sleep.  Leonar was thankful that the child was too young to understand the cruelty that surrounded her.

Turning toward Leonar and the Padre, Melita tried to smile.  "I am so sorry this has happened.  I tried to speak  to my husband last night but he would not listen.  He told me I was a foolish woman.  He thinks only of the money and his new friends."

"Melita, these men are very dangerous," Leonar responded.  Please help us?"

"I am afraid," answered Melita.  "My husband warned me not to interfere.  He is so...different but I will not let them harm you.  I promise."

A loud knock on the door frightened the women who watched as Padre Felipe opened the door.  Pablo and Quintana pushed passed the priest and stood in front of Leonar with a menacing look on their faces.  Leonar was terrified but stood her ground waiting for one of the men to speak.

"You have courage woman but it will do you no good if the de la Vega's do not pay," said Pablo pulling Leonar to a corner table.  "Sit down woman and write what I tell you."

Leonar took the pen and paper from Quintana and prepared to write the ransom note.  The men gave specific directions for delivering the ransom money but made no mention of how the captives would be returned.  Once complete Quintana called out to the fourth man who would deliver the note to the de la Vega hacienda.

"When you have your money you will leave?" inquired the priest.

"Si, we will leave," answered Pablo.  "You may return the child to it's parents but the lovely senorita will be coming with us."

"I will not," said Leonar standing defiantly.

Running his fingers down her face Pablo said, "A woman with spirt is a fine prize and I would not think to leave you behind."

Laughing the two men left leaving Leonar shaken.  Turning to Melita, Leonar said,
"Please you must help me."

"Senorita, I will try," Melita said leaving the room.

"Leonar, you must remain calm," said Padre Felipe.  "I have sent for help and it should be here shortly.   I have not said anything because...well Melita is the wife of one of those men.  I believe she wishes to help but she may not be able too.  Please say nothing but be ready for anything."

"Padre, have you sent word to the commandante?" questioned Leonar.

Smiling the priest said, "I have sent word to the one man who will set things right...Zorro."