The Reformation
                                                                                 Chapter Five

Capitan Monastario's condition improved remarkably in the short time since the shooting. Dr. Avila was pleased with his patient's progress but concerned that the paralysis in his legs had remained unchanged. Leonar maintained a steady vigil by the commandante's bed always cheery and optimistic even though Monastario became quiet and withdrawn. Everyone continued to hope for a complete recovery but as time passed the commandante felt his future with Leonar drifting away. How could he expect Leonar to give her life to a man that was paralyzed?

"Enrique, do you wish me to do anything for you?" asked Leonar opening the drapes to allow the rays from the morning sun to warm the room.

"No, there is nothing I need," said Monastario halfheartedly.

"Sergeant Garcia has been asking for you," said Leonar walking toward the bed. "He would like to stop by later today."

"Leonar, please I do not wish to see anyone," he said sharply.

Taken back by the agitation in his voice Leonar replied, "I am sorry. I will tell him to come another day."

"No, I am the one who is sorry," he said taking her hand. "I will see the sergeant when he comes to the hacienda. Meanwhile, why do you not go into the pueblo? It will do you good."

"All right, if you are sure you do not need me. I will ask Anna Maria to join me. It is market day in the pueblo and I would love to see what the vendors are offering."

Kissing him lightly on the cheek Leonar smiled and turned and left the room. Once the door closed Leonar brought her hand to her mouth to silence her sobbing. It had been difficult for her to see the pain in the capitan's eyes and hear the fear in his voice. Sad and confused Leonar walked into the sala where Alejandro was about to sit down to tea with Anna Maria and Diego.  Seeing Leonar, Don Alejandro, called out to her. 

"My dear, please join us?" asked Alejandro extending his hand..

"Gracias," she said taking his arm.

Once seated Leonar was asked, "How is the commandante today?"

"Capitan Monastario has improved a great deal but not as much as I hoped. I believed by now he would begin to have some movement or feeling in his legs...but no. The doctor has said that there are many reason why this may have occurred but we must not rule out the fact...he may be paralyzed."

"Is the capitan aware of this?" asked Diego.

"Si. He is trying so hard to be brave for me but I see the fear in his eyes. He has asked me to return to Monterey," Leonar added. "Unless he is able to walk he feels there is no future for us."

"Is that what you plan to do?" questioned Anna Maria.

"I do not wish to go. My life is with matter what."

"Is there anything I can do?" asked Diego.

"Maybe if you talk to him and make him understand that my feelings have not changed," said Leonar sadly.

"I will try my best," Diego said patting her hands.

"Enrique suggested I go into the pueblo for awhile and I think the change would be good," smiled Leonar. "Anna Maria, please join me?"

"Si, that is an excellent idea," agreed Anna Maria.

"Bueno," said Leonar. Perhaps Enrique will feel better after visiting with Diego."

"Ladies, I will see that the carriage is made ready for you," said Diego rising. "It should not take too long."

In the tiny pueblo the news of the paralysis suffered by the commandante spread quickly among the people and soldiers. Everyone had been suspicious of Monastario when he returned from Spain but his honorable intentions had been a happy surprise. Taxes were not raised unreasonably, there were no unjust laws issued and the poor were not mistreated. Fear and resentment had been replaced with a relaxed confident feeling.

Sergeant Garcia took charge of the garrison while Monastario recovered. His first duty was to pen a letter to the district administrado telling him of the need for a judge to hear the case against Miguel Ramirez. Judge Vasca, he thought, would make an excellent choice to preside over the Ramirez trial. The very nature of the case and the people involved would surely attract many to the quiet Pueblo de Los Angeles. Sergeant Garcia would tolerate no mistakes and clearly believed no one would object to any decision made by Judge Vasca, a man noted for his fairness and honesty.

Each morning as the sun began to rise over the garrison the acting commandante stepped down from the stairs in front of his office and marched forward to review his troops. After raising the Spanish flag high over the cuartel, Garcia posted the orders of the day that included new sentries at the front gate and morning patrol. The soldiers were then dismissed and Garcia routinely crossed the courtyard to check on his prisoner.

On this particular morning the sergeant suddenly stopped and gasped when he saw the empty cell. "The prisoner has escaped. Men saddle your horses at once," Garcia cried out to the men preparing for patrol. Quickly he made his way to the stable and his horse.

"Sergeant," inquired Corporal Reyes as they picked up their saddles, "How did Don Miguel manage to escape?"

"I do not know," replied Garcia. "The door is open and a key has been left in the lock but only the commandante and I had a key. They are both hanging in the office.   Someone has helped him...but who and why?"

Once saddled the patrol led by Garcia proceeded through the gates to search the hills and the surrounding area for the escaped prisoner. Ramirez was a dangerous and very clever man who could be hiding nearby ready to strike again. After several hours of painstaking search, Garcia and his men headed toward the various ranchos to warn them that Ramirez had escaped. The last rancho they would stop by belonged to the de la Vega's. In his mind Garcia could hear the angry words spoken by the commandante. Incompetent bungler. Idiota. Babosa. Estupido.

At the de la Vega hacienda Diego stood in the hallway outside the door to Monastario's room.. Taking a deep breath Diego knocked and waited for permission to enter. 'Passe' was the word called out by the voice from within. Sitting up in the bed with his head leaning against some pillows Monastario stared as the young don walked toward him. No longer the rash officer ready for a fight but a pale, broken man.

"Eh, commandante it is good to see you looking so well," said Diego as he lowered himself into a chair near the bed.

"De la Vega if you have come to gloat you are too late," grimaced Monastario. "Fate has finally made me pay for the things I have done."

"No, I find no satisfaction in your misfortune. If I did...I would have left you for dead days ago," retorted Diego.

"I do not need you to feel sorry for me either," stared Monastario.

"I did not come to argue with you capitan. This is not pity you see but concern for a respected opponent."

"You hide your feelings well whether you are dressed as Zorro or Diego," said Monastario bluntly. "Perhaps I am reverting to my old self by lashing out at everyone who has tried to help."

"No, I do not see it that way," responded Diego. "I always believed there was something worthwhile in you and I am not wrong."

"Once Don Diego that may have been true but Ramirez changed all that when he killed my wife and our unborn child," Monastario said closing his eyes. "Everything good died with me that day."

"Capitan you have another chance...with Leonar. Do not shut your eyes to the feelings you share."

"I cannot burden Leonar for life with half a man," said Monastario slapping his legs. "Leonar deserves so much more. It would be for the best if she would leave for Monterey and forget me."

"You may feel differently in a day or so," said Diego standing. "I hope you think this over."

"As long as things remain the same I will not change my mind," said Monastario his eyes fixed on Diego. 

"You were willing to sacrifice your life for love. If you do not reconsider you may lose more then the use of your legs my friend," said Diego hoping his words made an impact on Monastario.