The Reformation
  Chapter Seven

Since the disappearance of the escaped prisoner two weeks had passed without incident.  Sergeant Garcia, true to his word, had posted sentries at the front gate of the de la Vega hacienda and sent soldiers to patrol the surrounding area but there had been no sighting of Don Miguel. Monastario slowly recovered from his wounds yet continued to show no interest in the issues concerning the pueblo. When the soldiers sent to San Pedro returned they reported immediately to Sergeant Garcia at the cuartel. The soldiers had made many inquires and discovered that two men had hurriedly boarded a ship in San Pedro bound for South America, one of the strangers bore a strong resemblance to the escaped prisoner. With this new information Garcia resolved that Don Miguel and his accomplice had successfully escaped. Soon the sentries outside the rancho and the extra patrols were returned to their normal routine at the garrison. The people in and around Los Angeles remained cautious but soon came to accept the actions taken by Garcia. Surely Don Miguel would not stay in Los Angeles where he could be recaptured and made to stand trial. Death by hanging would be the only result of his heinous crimes. Life in the quiet pueblo continued on as usual yet Diego and Alejandro were still worried.

"Father, I believe Sergeant Garcia has done all that was expected of him but I still find myself unable to put aside this business with Don Miguel," said Diego pacing in his father's study.

"I agree that I am still concerned but it does seem unlikely that Don Miguel and whoever helped him would remain in the vicinity," stated Alejandro. "If it will make you feel better, my son, I will have some vaqueros keep a close eye on the hacienda."

"Gracias. That would help. There is no way Zorro can be everywhere," he grinned. "With your permission, Father, Anna Maria is waiting with Leonar and Padre Felipe in the sala," said Diego.
Don Alejandro followed his son into the sala where they found Anna Maria and Padre Felipe trying to console a very disturbed Leonar.  No longer did the commandante have the same fire and independence as before the accident. It was evident to all that his attitude was disintegrating.  Physically he was no longer in danger of losing his life but mentally he slipped deeper with himself. The members of the de la Vega household were concerned by Monastario's odd behavior.

"Buenas dias Padre Felipe," said Alejandro as the padre stood to greet him. "It is good to see you. Are things well at the mission?"

"Si, all is well," he said clasping his hands together. "This morning I visited with the commandante. I must say I was surprised to find him so withdrawn."

'The three of us were just discussing what may be done to help him over this obstacle to his recovery," said the padre.

"Enrique has given up hope of walking and returning to his command," explained Leonar wiping away tears. "He wishes I return to Monterey and begin a life without him. He told me of his plans to return to Spain."

"Perhaps that would be for the best," said Alejandro glancing toward his son. Diego understood how his father felt but the look on Leonar's face tore at his heart.

"No it cannot be," her eyes pleaded. "If Enrique returns to Spain...I shall never see him again. Please help, I am at a loss."

"Diego, there must be something we can do," pleaded Anna Maria.

"Leonar, you must convince the commandante that this would be the wrong decision for you both," the young don said. "It is up to you."

"Si," she said standing, "I wish I knew the right words."

"Father, please show Leonar and the good padre out to the garden," said Diego. "I will have Bernardo bring some refreshments and join you with Anna Maria."

Taking Leonar by the hand Don Alejandro added, "We will sit and find a solution, I promise."

Diego took Anna Maria by the arm and they walked in the direction of the kitchen.

"I hope for Leonar's sake we can help," said Anna Maria suddenly stopping to clutch her stomach.

"Mi amor, are you all right?"

Taking Diego's hand she placed it on her stomach and smiled. His face lit up as he felt the movement of his child for the first time. Touched by this gift their love created Diego nearly gave way to tears. Together they stood entwined in each other's arms.           

Thundering toward the small pueblo of Los Angeles the coach from Monterey rolled across the rough highway. The two passengers looked forward to shaking off the dirt which covered their clothes not to mention a refreshing bottle of wine to remove the dust from their throat. The sun was already beginning to set when the coach finally arrived in the pueblo. As the coach came to a halt Corporal Reyes realized that someone important must be on board to be escorted by soldiers. Quickly the corporal shook the sleeping soldier on the bench besides him.

"Sergeant Garcia, wake up. The coach is here and there are many lancers accompanying it," yelled Reyes.

"What did you say?" yawned Garcia.

"The coach is here and there are many lancers with it," repeated Reyes.

Jumping to his feet, Garcia straightened his uniform and ran to open the door and pull down thew steip to allow the passengers to climb down. Corporal Reyes stepped to Garcia's side to allow the passengers to disembark.

"Your Excellency, we were not notified that you were coming or I would have made proper arrangements," Garcia saluted the governor stiffly.

"Sergeant, that will not be necessary. Don Alejandro has extended an invitation to join him at the hacienda. I look forward to seeing my daughter. If you would be so kind as to arrange for a carriage for us and our baggage."

"Of course. Corporal Reyes will see to the carriage and the baggage," Garcia said. Startled by the words spoken by the governor, Garcia repeated "Us...our baggage?"

The second passenger poked his head through the open door and stepped down. He was a tall, well-dressed gray haired gentleman. Somberly he looked about the pueblo disappointed by its size and simple condition.

"Pardon senor but I am Sergeant Demetrio Lopez Garcia, acting commandante," he said proudly.

"I am Carlos Ramirez from Spain. I am here to join my son and visit with my old friend, Don Alejandro de la Vega."

"Sergeant, Don Carlos will be joining me in the ride to the hacienda," said the governor smiling. "Make sure the carriage is large enough."

Garcia was stunned by the appearance of Senor Ramirez but gathered his thoughts and replied, "Si, may I suggest the tavern for some supper while you wait? Once the carriage is ready we can load the baggage then if you are ready we can leave."

"A wonderful idea Sergeant. Please see that my guards are attended to properly." Garcia guided the two men to the tavern and sent the corporal to see to the soldiers.

Before leaving the tavern Don Carlos turned to Garcia and asked, "Will you ask the innkeeper if my son is registered?"

"Uh...uh...Don Carlos I believe Don Alejandro would be able to answer the question regarding the whereabouts of your son," Garcia said nervously.

"Of course, Alejandro would have him stay at the hacienda," he said as the governor nodded in agreement. Walking away Garcia took a deep breath and hoped that the subject of Don Miguel would remain closed until Alejandro could explain.

In the small garden adjoining the main house of the hacienda, the commandante sat alone with only a glass of wine for company. Sadly he reflected on the hopes and dreams he had...all crushed. Twice his life had been ruined thanks to that contemptuous, Miguel Ramirez. Looking up at the stars twinkling above Monastario wondered if the paralysis he suffered was punishment for the dishonesty and unjust treatment he forced on the people. Placing the wineglass to his lips he emptied the contents and leaned over to pour himself another glass. Covered by the dark shadows of the house a slim feminine figure silently waited and watched the commandante. Courageously she stepped out into the light her heart racing as she moved closer. Monastario's eyes opened wide as he caught sight of Leonar coming toward him.

"I did not mean to disturb you," she said wistfully. "If you wish I will go."

"No...please stay," he said placing his glass on the table as Leonar sat down next to him. "When I look into your beautiful face I see the hurt I put there. I am sorry."

"What you see is sadness," she replied, "because you have pushed me away."

"I am no longer the man you fell in love with...I am a cripple without a future," he said turning away.

"That is not so. I did not fall in love with your position or things you can give me but with Enrique Sanchez Monastario," she said softly. "It was right here in the garden at Diego's wedding when I first saw you. Do you remember?"

Si," his voice trailed off. "Even then I was not worthy of you. Everything you were told about me was true. Can you not see how lucky you are to be rid of me?"

"Every man makes mistakes, some more then others," she said turning his face to hers. "The man you speak of no longer exists."

"Perhaps," he said, "but my legs are still paralyzed."

"I love you. Nothing will change that."

"You must realize I cannot be a proper husband to you. How can we have a future together?"

"Without you, mi amor, I have no future," her voice quivered. "My heart is yours now and forever. I have nothing unless we are together."

Hesitantly he leaned over and pressed his lips to hers. For a brief moment it was though nothing had changed as they clung to one another. The sound of horses on the path outside the wall startled the couple back to reality. Looking in the direction of the large wooden door Leonar and the commandante were surprised to see Garcia followed by two men and a group of soldiers. The commotion brought Alejandro, Diego, and Anna Maria from their rooms.

"What is the meaning of this disruption?" yelled Don Alejandro, as he swiftly made his way down the staircase to the patio with Diego by his side. "Sergeant, please explain."

Stepping forward Don Carlos said, "Alejandro, my dear friend. Is this any way to greet an old friend?"