Chapter Three

After freshening up and changing Diego relaxed on the patio with his father while Bernardo poured them some wine.  A knock on the garden door sent the mute servant to the entrance where he came face to face with the robust sergeant.  Garcia acknowledged Bernardo with a wide grin then headed toward Don Alejandro and Diego.  Both men stood and greeted the soldier warmly.

"Buenas tardes," said Garcia. "I am sorry to disturb you but I am here to inform you of a robbery which took place on the king's highway nearby.  Don Roberto was shot, robbed and left for dead.  Luckily he was found and brought to the doctor.  The bandits got away with five thousand pesos."

"This is incredible," said Don Alejandro heatedly.  "Why have you and your men not captured these bandits?  They have been terrorizing this area for months."

"I have sent out many patrols," Garcia said defensively. "But we have not found the bandits or their hiding place. They seem to be always on the move."

"Sergeant, please excuse my father," Diego said apologetically. "This very morning my father, Bernardo and our guest came under attack when they returned from the pueblo.  They were lucky Zorro came to their aid."

"This is true," added Don Alejandro. "If it were not for Zorro the bandits would have overtaken the carriage and who knows what would have happened."

At that moment Anna Maria appeared at the top of the stairs.  Diego joyfully went to the stairs to meet her.  Taking her arm he walked her over to his father and Sergeant Garcia.

"Gracias, Diego," she said. "Is there a problem?"

"The good Sergeant stopped by to inform us of a robbery and shooting that took place nearby.  Father and I were telling him of your encounter this afternoon."

"Si, it was a good thing that Señor Zorro was there to help us.  He is always there when he is needed."

"Well I am glad that no one was hurt," said the Sergeant meekly.  "After my men and I return from patrol I will make a report of this incident.  Be assured we will do everything to find these men."

Sergeant Garcia made his good-byes and joined his men on patrol.  Shortly Amalia appeared on the patio and announced that supper was ready.  Don Alejandro followed Bernardo to the main house but turned to watch Diego and Anna Maria.  He smiled as the two young people walked arm in arm toward him happily.  

When supper was over Diego and Anna Maria took a stroll hand in hand in the moonlight.  When they returned to the patio they stood admiring the sky with its full moon and twinkling stars.  Suddenly a single star streaked across the heaven followed by a shiny golden tail.

"How beautiful," sighed Anna Maria. "We must close our eyes and make a wish."

Anna Maria shut her eyes but Diego could only look at the beautiful woman that stood before him.  He desired to take her in his arms so that he could hold her close and never let her go.  Slowly she opened her eyes and looked directly into Diego's handsome face.  Ever so gently he put his hands on her shoulders and drew her closer.  Leaning down he pressed his lips gently to hers.  At first she did not respond but then melted in his arms.  He kissed her once again but this time she resisted.

"Diego, I am sorry," she said.  It is late.  I am going to my room.  Buenos noches."

Diego watched as Anna Maria climbed the stairs..  For a moment he was going to go after her but felt as though his legs were made of heavy clay.  Bernardo had been standing in the shadows on the patio when the couple returned but now he walked over to Diego and placed a hand on his shoulder.  Diego could not speak but then words were not necessary between the two men.  

Later alone in his room Diego paced back and forth as if he was a wild animal in a cage. Suddenly he darted to the secret room where he changed into his Zorro identity.  Running down the passageway to the cave below he saddled up Tornado and rode from the cave.  He hoped a long ride through the mountains would help to clear his mind and thoughts of Anna Maria.  After several hours in the saddle he came to a small cabin hidden in the hills where two horses were tied.  Could Zorro have accidently found the robbers hideout? Dismounting Tornado he carefully made his way to a window where he gazed in.  Two men were seated around a table counting the many pesos spread out before them.  Listening he could hear the men as they spoke of Zorro interrupting their robbery attempt that morning.  Zorro drew his sword as he moved toward the front door.  With a swift kick the door flew open.  Surprised the men grabbed for their weapons and stood ready to strike but neither was a match for Zorro.

Soon the scuffle was over and the bandits were disarmed. After the men were tied and placed on their horses Zorro made his way to the cuartel.  Banging on the heavy cuartel doors Zorro waited.  Two lancers with their rifles at their side pulled open the doors.  

"Lift up your rifles soldiers.  Here is the money stolen from Don Roberto and the men who took it," said Zorro tossing the soldiers a bag filled with pesos.  "Give Sergeant Garcia my regards."

Zorro reared Tornado and waved as he rode out of the tiny pueblo.  On his return to the hacienda Zorro ran through the secret passage to his room.  Without changing his clothes  he went directly to the balcony and looked down into the empty courtyard.   With the help of his whip he climbed to the roof and crept along the tiles until he was above Anna Maria's room.  Looking down on the balcony below he could see Anna Maria, a gentle breeze blowing through her hair.         

"Anna Maria," he whispered.

Anna Maria looked up surprised and said, "Zorro."

"I hope I did not frighten you but I needed to see you," he said lowering himself to the balcony.

"No, I was not frightened," said Anna Maria. "I am happy to see you."

"There is something I must tell you but I do not know where to begin," Zorro said apprehensively.

Zorro faced danger many times but facing Anna Maria was harder then anything he had done before.  Would Anna Maria understand why he could not tell her everything in Monterey?  Most important would she accept him as Diego?  So many things passed in his mind.  He did not know where to begin.  Just as he was to speak he heard the sound made by many horses hooves.  He looked down at Anna Maria then took her in his arms and kissed her passionately.  The next thing she knew he was gone. 
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The Visit