Chapter Ten

Anna Maria promised herself that she would tell Diego she knew he was Zorro but like her intended she was constantly interrupted.  Now with their impending marriage so close it was imperitif that they share their secrets.  Once everything was in the open they would be able to have a joyous wedding.  Unfortunately another interruption was to come in the form of the rather large but well meaning soldier, Sergeant Garcia.

"Buenos días, my good friends," Garcia said cheerfully having just entered the tavern.  "Is it not a beautiful day?"

"Buenos dias Sergeant," replied Anna Maria and Diego.

"What brings you to Los Angeles this morning?" asked Garcia.

"Well as a matter of fact we were going to see you," smiled Diego.   "Anna Maria and I have an annoucement to make."

"An announcement...please tell me," Garcia said removing his hat.

"Anna Maria and I are to be married," Diego said holding Anna Maria by the hand.

"Marriage," Garcia said motioning to the barmaid.  "Bring some wine for my friends.  We are having a celebration."

"Gracias," they responded as the wine and glasses were brought to the table.

The sergeant eagerly accepted an invitation to join them.  Filled with good humor Garcia toasted the couple on their betrothal pleased that Anna Maria now returned Diego's love.  What a striking pair they made thought Garcia. 

The conversation at lunch continued on a pleasant note until Garcia brought up the subject of taxes.  It seemed the battalion from Monterey was not coming into Los Angeles to pick up the money but instead Garcia and his men would ride out to meet them.  Garcia was a good man but as a soldier, a leader...this was not a good idea.  He hoped that Garcia and his man would be safe as they delivered the money but so many new faces had drifted into the area.  Perhaps Zorro should keep an eye on this new development.  When Garcia finished lunch he congratulated the young couple once again and headed off to the cuartel.  Diego gathered his group and the foursome made their way back to the rancho.

Once again there was no time for Anna Maria and Diego to speak besides the tax money was filling Diego's thoughts.  Later in his room Diego explained to Bernardo that tonight he would ride as Zorro to assist the soldiers and help protect the tax money if necessary.   Bernardo consented to accompany Zorro in case additional help was needed.  When supper was concluded Diego made his apologies and retired to his room.  Shortly thereafter he mounted Tornado and together with Bernado rode with great speed toward Los Angeles.  It was late and the streets of the tiny peublo were deserted.  Hiding near the cuartel they waited.  When the soldiers passed through the gate with the wagon containing a chest filled with the tax money Zorro was ready.  Along with Bernardo they followed the soldiers from a distance.  

Time passed without a problem and Zorro was pleased but suddenly four men pounced upon the surprised soldiers.  A fight ensued and one of the robbers grabbed the reins from the wagon's fallen driver and took off.  Seeing that Garcia and his men had things under control with three of the robbers Zorro rode after the fourth man followwed by Bernardo.  It was not long before Zorro caught up to the wagon and jumped on.  The two men began to fight while the wagon sped out of control.  Soon one of the wheels hit a rock and Zorro and the bandit were tossed from the wagon.  Bernardo continued after the runaway wagon and managed to stop the horses.  Returning to the spot where the men were thrown Bernardo witnessed Zorro disarm the robber but was shocked as the bandit drew a pistol and fired at the masked man. Even though Zorro had been shot and was bleeding heavily, he managed to overcome the robber.  Bernardo jumped down from the wagon to help Zorro put the bandit into the wagon.  No sooner had they finished then they caughtt sight of the soldiers coming from both directions.  Hurriedly they mounted their horses and disappeared into the trees.

Zorro and Bernardo watched hidden by the trees as the soldiers converged on the wagon. Garcia took charge of the fourth bandit while the regiment from Monterey lifted the chest on to their wagon.  After a brief exchange Garcia and his men returned to the cuartel with the bandits thankful for the mysterious helper.          

Meanwhile barely conscious from loss of blood Zorro fell from his horse. Bernardo did what he could to stop the bleeding and bind the wound but more help was needed.  Bernardo looked down at his young friend for help. 

"Take me back to the hacienda," Zorro whispered.  "If I am to die, I want it to be there."

Bernardo nodded and helped his young friend to his horse.  The ride to the hacienda was long and difficult.  By early morning they arrived at the cave.  Bernardo struggled as he half carried the masked man to his room and set him down in the bed.   Bernardo left the room to find Don Alejandro for he would know what to do.  Running through the hacienda he finally found the don in his study with Don Grigorio.  Unable to alert Don Alejandro without making Don Grigorio suspicious he left the room.  Without thinking Bernardo went to the only other person who could be trusted.  Knocking on the door he waited. 

The Visit