The Reformation
                                                                             Chapter Six                                                        

A cool, crisp day met the residents of the de la Vega household as they walked toward the main gate to the waiting carriage. Both Leonar and Anna Maria were looking forward to a carefree day in Los Angeles. Diego accompanied the two women and helped them into the buggy. Poor Diego was still haunted by the deep, gray eyes of the peon he encountered within the cuartel walls. What was it that he found so disturbing in the eyes of the old man? Unwilling to cause unnecessary alarm Diego had kept his feelings to himself but now as Anna Maria prepared to leave for Los Angeles Diego became uneasy and offered to ride along with the women.

"Diego we will be fine," Anna Maria stated. "Please do not worry. There is no danger and the day will do both Leonar and myself a world of good. Besides we will return early and Bernardo will be with us."

"Forgive me but is it not an expectant father's right to be anxious," smiled Diego as he gently brushed his lips against her delicate hand. "I wonder what is keeping Bernardo.  I will go check on him."

Diego returned to the patio to find Bernardo leaving the hacienda.  Before allowing Bernardo to continue Diego offered some words to his trusted friend. 

"Something is not as it should be.  I cannot explain but be very careful," he whispered.

As the carriage slowly rolled toward Los Angeles Bernardo kept a watchful eye for any danger that might arise. In the seat behind Anna Maria and Leonar spoke freely while contemplating the wares to be found in the plaza. The market was the heart of the community with its abundance of products and local traditions. Anna Maria hoped that a pleasant day would ease the tension and pain experienced by Leonar the past few days.  However, she could sense the sadness in Leonar.

"Leonar, what is troubling you so?" Anna Maria inquired.

"Enrique has been very quiet," confided Leonar. "As you know his recovery has not gone as we hoped. I do not know what to say or do."

"The capitan will work things out in his own way. Just be there for him. He needs time to readjust."

"True but if he is not able to walk he does not see a future for us. I love him," added Leonar. "I do not wish to lose him," she said wiping away tears.

At the hacienda Diego watched as the carriage drew further away but suddenly came to a halt when met by a groups of soldiers. Curiously Diego remained watching as Sergeant Garcia dismounted and walked over to speak with the occupants of the buggy. 

"Buenos dias Sergeant," greeted Anna Maria. Sergeant Garcia appeared flustered as he removed his hat. Anna Maria quickly added, "Is there a problem?"

"In a way...I have some news that you will find most unpleasant," uttered Garcia. "This morning it was discovered that the prisoner, Miguel Ramirez, escaped." The women looked at one another stunned. "We have been searching since daylight but have found nothing. We have notified all the outlying ranchero's except that of Don Alejandro."

"Sergeant you must bring this news to the commandante at once," said Leonar.

"Si, we are on our way there now but first I would have some of my men ride along with you,"

"That will not be necessary Sergeant," said Anna Maria. "I think we would prefer to return to the hacienda." Leonar nodded in agreement.

"Bueno. Corporal Reyes take three men and ride back to the cuartel. The rest of us will join you once I speak with the commandante and Don Alejandro," ordered Garcia.

"Si...right away," said the corporal. "Should I send out another patrol to look for Don Miguel."

"Of course stupid one, we must find the escaped prisoner before he causes more trouble."

Once the soldiers were on their way, Garcia and the carriage turned in the direction of the hacienda. Garcia tried to practice answering the questions he anticipated would be asked of him once they reached the hacienda but the thought that he had failed those that depended on him made it difficult to concentrate. Who could have helped Ramirez to escape and why?

Just above the hacienda in the hills two men lay hidden watching as the carriage returned with the soldier. How they wished they could see the look on Monastario's face as he was told of the escaped prisoner. Soon their plans would go forward and all that they desired would come true.

"Our plan is a good one. We shall both get the revenge we seek but first we must let everyone think you have fled from this place, Don Miguel. Then we can sneak into the hacienda and…" grinned the stranger.

Don Alejandro sat quietly at his desk in the sala going over some papers when he heard the door open. Quickly he stood and greeted the sergeant.

"Welcome Sergeant. It is good to see you. Surprised by the appearance of the others Alejandro said, "Anna Maria, Leonar. Why have you returned? Diego, has something happened?"

"Father," interrupted Diego, "I think the sergeant would prefer to tell us his news with Capitan Monastario present. Let us join the commandante." Diego extended his arm to allow his father, the sergeant, and the women to pass. Bernardo placed his hand on Diego's arm and gave him a sullen look,which meant there was much danger ahead.

In the bedroom Dr. Avila was just finishing his examination when Don Alejandro knocked at the door. The commandante leaned back against his pillows while the doctor went to open the door.

"Oh, I am sorry to intrude but Sergeant Garcia has some important news to share with us."     

"Please have the sergeant come in Don Alejandro," said the commandante as Alejandro motioned for the others to come forth.

"Sergeant, what is so important that you have to tell me?

"Mi capitan there has been an unfortunate series of events," said Garcia meekly. Leonar moved toward Monastario knowing that he must remain calm.

"What 'events' do you mean?" asked the commandante raising his voice.

"Sir, the prisoner, Miguel Ramirez, has escaped jail and is missing. The lancers and I have searched everywhere but we have found nothing."

"Idiota," yelled Monastario. "How is it possible for a man to get out of his cell when you have guards posted around the cuartel?"

"Capitan, I think someone may have helped him...I am sorry. The lancers and I will continue to search the area around Los Angeles. Also, I will send soldiers to see if the prisoner boarded any of the ships leaving California."

"He should have never been allowed to escape in the first place. I want guards posted here at the hacienda. The senorita and the others must be protected. Do you understand sergeant," said Monastario his face red with anger.

"Capitan at once. Con promiso," said Garcia saluting and bounding from the room. The others followed closely behind the sergeant.

"Don Alejandro, I will have sentries posted at the entrance and some men will patrol the area around the hacienda," said Garcia ruffled by the commandante's words. "I don't know how the prisoner escaped but I assure you that you will be safe here."

"Gracias Sergeant," nodded Don Alejandro as Garcia turned and left. "Diego, I know Sergeant Garcia will do his best but I do not have a good feeling about any of this."

"Nor do I," he said looking at Bernardo who made a "Z" with his finger. "Si, I think Zorro will help our good sergeant." All three men nodded in agreement.