A New Beginning
                                                                            Chapter Six

The plaza in the pueblo de Los Angeles was brimming with peons pushing their carts laden with produce into the main square.  Tio, the innkeeper, busied himself sweeping the floors of his tavern in preparation for the travelers and patrons that would visit his establishment.  Meanwhile Senor Martinez, the owner of the dry goods store, lifted heavy bags of grain to be stacked outside his store and the elder Pinones, the stable master, stood with a hammer at his anvil.  Within hours the small village was flooded with men and women anxious to fill their baskets with ripe fruit, fresh vegetables and other necessities as the small children remained nearby playing games. 

Every morning in the cuartel the routine began with the raising of the Spanish flag and continued through roll call followed by the duty assignments.  On this particular morning once the daily patrol departed the soldiers left behind were dismissed and Garcia prepared to check with the commandante for additional orders.  Standing lazily at the main gate on this unusually warm day two soldiers were at their posts with rifles by their sides.  The two guards, hot and tired, looked forward to being relieved shortly of the long night's duty.  Now as Diego and Bernardo approached the gate the soldiers came to attention with raised rifles. 

"Halt," demanded one of the guards.  "What is it that you wish Senors?"

"I wish to speak with Capitan Monastario," answered Diego.

Sergeant Garcia called out to his men when he saw his young friend standing at the gate.

"Allow them to pass."

Diego nodded to the soldiers as Bernardo and he headed toward the portly soldier.

"Gracias Sergeant," Diego said with a wide smile.  "You are looking splendid on this rather hot day."

"Don Diego, little one," Garcia said in his characteristic jolly voice.  "It is good to see you both.  I hope the Senora is better today.  Well, of course, she must if you are here."

"Anna Maria is resting and should be up and around in no time," Don Diego responded.  "The reason I am here is to speak to the commandante."

"I am pleased the Senora's illness is not serious, my friend," Garcia said.  "Please give her my best.  I was just on my way to the commandante's office to collect the daily orders.  Come, I will tell Capitan Monastario that you are waiting."

"Gracias Sergeant," grinned Diego.  "Then afterwards, perhaps if you are not too busy, you may join me for some refreshment at the tavern?"

"Oh that is a most gracious invitation," Garcia replied as they strolled toward the commandante's office.

Since returning to the cuartel Capitan Monastario had resumed his duties as commandante and settled into his original quarters.  Sergeant Garcia sadly had removed his belongings to his previous room in the soldier's barracks; his hopes of becoming the permanent commandante were gone.  Standing outside the office Garcia paused, sighed deeply, looked at his friends and climbed the steps to rap on the door.

"Passé," called out Monastario.

"It will be only a momento Don Diego," smiled Garcia as he opened the door.

"Capitan, I am here to collect your orders for the day," Garcia saluted then continued,  "Also Don Diego de la Vega and his servant are waiting to see you."

"Very well Sergeant," Monastario answered.  "Your orders are on the desk in front of you."

"Gracias sir," Garcia said.  "Will there be anything else?"

"No Sergeant, you may go.  Please ask Senor de la Vega to come in."

"Si Capitan," saluted Garcia.  

Garcia opened the door and waved Don Diego and Bernardo through.  Smiling he closed the door and went on his way.  The first thing Garcia did was to issue the additional assignments the commandante wished completed.  Once the tasks were underway Garcia would be free to meet Don Diego for a leisurely bit of refreshment in the tavern.  Don Diego, what a friend! What a predicament Garcia found himself in!  Could Don Diego be this masked outlaw Zorro?   Garcia believed this to be true yet how was this possible when everyone knew of Diego's passion for books, music and the arts?  This fancy cabellero was not a man of force:; he never used violence and could not even fence.  There must be an explanation or Garcia would find himself in the odd position of arresting this man he called friend.

"Buenos tardes Don Diego," said Monastario standing to welcome his visitors.

"Commandante," Diego returned the greeting.  "It is good to see you looking so fit."

"Gracias," replied Monastario.  "The senora is also well, I hope."

"Si, she should regain her strength in a few days," smiled Diego.  "In the meantime I thought we might have a talk."

"Very well" replied Monastario offering Diego a seat.

"I was surprised by your hasty departure from the rancho commandante," stated Diego with an inquiring look.  "Was there something wrong?"

"No, on the contrary," Monastario responded nervously. "I just felt the time had come for me to return to my duties at the cuartel."

"Then it had nothing to do with Anna Maria falling ill or your feelings for Leonar?" questioned Diego.

"De la Vega, let us end this," said Monastario jumping to his feet.  " I think you know very well why I left the hacienda.  I am responsible for all the terrible things that took place at the rancho.  If I had not been there…as for Leonar…that is a personal matter.  I will not discuss this with you."

"Leonar is a friend, a good friend," said Diego.  "I do not wish to interfere but perhaps help you in some small way."

"Help me," inquired Monastario.  "Why would you wish to help me?  I am not your friend."

"Perhaps a respected adversary would be more appropriate," smirked Diego.  "If you need my help, you need only ask."

Bernardo opened the door and both men walked from the office leaving the commandante alone.  In the cuartel yard the men spied Sergeant Garcia eagerly waiting to join them.

"Ah Sergeant, I see you have completed your business.  Join me for some refreshment in the tavern?" Diego asked.

As Bernardo led the horses behind the two men, he remembered his arrival for the first time in the pueblo.  The small village was under the control of an evil predator, Capitan Monastario, who preyed on the innocent for personal reward.  Diego with his cunning and strength found a way to battle the tyranny of the commandante by taking on the disguise of Zorro, the Fox.  Zorro was the hero loved by the people and feared by those who sought to take advantage of the defenseless. 

During the past years so many things had changed; the pueblo was now running smoothly, the people were happy and content yet the need for Zorro remained, as did the threat to Diego.  Bernardo wondered if Monastario would continue to protect the secret of Zorro's identity as promised or would a new threat arise and take our hero by surprise.  Time would be the judge and Bernardo hoped the verdict would be in Diego's favor.