The Reformation
Chapter Nine

In the hills high above the de la Vega hacienda, Miguel Ramirez stretched out beneath the stars. Looking up into the sky he knew that his moment of revenge was near. When the sun rose the following morning, Miguel's partner would ride to the rancho below disguised as a messenger from Sergeant Garcia. The note he carried would request the governor and Don Alejandro take part in a meeting with the prominent citizens of the pueblo that morning in the tavern. Garcia had already received a note that he believed was written by the governor asking for this meeting. With luck the plan would proceed without difficulty and Don Carlos would accompany Don Alejandro to the meeting. Don Miguel's grin widened as he considered the events that would follow. Once Diego left the hacienda to make the daily rounds of the rancho it would be time for Miguel and his partner to take their sweet revenge. With guns and swords ready they would easily take the hacienda since Monastario, the women and servants would be defenseless. Finally Monastario would be dealt with but not before he suffered the loss of his current love. Miguel lapsed into a deep sleep comforted that his wait would soon be over.

At the de la Vega hacienda all the occupants had retired for the evening except for Diego. Creeping along the dark, damp passageway to the sala he stopped before opening the cabinet and stepping inside to look through the carved peephole. His cat like movements led him unobtrusively through the dimly lit abode to the guest bedroom occupied by the commandante.. After knocking softly at the heavy wooden door Diego entered. A single candle flickered on the night table shedding its light on the solitary figure..

It had been nearly a month since Diego and Monastario had forged a temporary truce while secretly working together each night to strengthen the soldier's paralyzed legs. This temporary 'cease-fire' soon bound both men together as they drew closer by their trust and commitment to each other. Walking toward the commandante Diego was struck by the look of gloom in the face of this once formidable adversary.

"Commandante, has something happened?" questioned Diego. "You look disturbed. Was it something the doctor said this afternoon during his visit?"

"No, Dr. Avila is very encouraged by my progress and confidant that I shall recover in a matter of time."

"This is wonderful news," said Diego pleased that their long hours had paid off. "Leonar must be very relieved."

"She would be if she knew," Monastario said looking at Diego. "I cannot allow Leonar to waste her life on me. You are aware of how I lied and even used the church to get what I wanted."

"Si, your past actions have not left many in Los Angeles untouched," recalled Diego remembering his own father. "You were devious and cruel but the most cunning and adept opponent that Zorro had. I believe hate and bitterness blinded you until you did not recognize what was right or wrong. The violent death of your wife and unborn child would be difficult for anyone. I hope I never feel that pain. Perhaps vengeance was your only reason for returning to the Pueblo de Los Angeles but something or someone changed you. I believe you are entitled to another chance."

"A chance to makeup for the things I have done...but is it too late?" asked the commandante.

Diego's eyes brightened as he looked into the blue eyes of this once hated but respected enemy and responded, "I do not believe it is too late. If I did I would not help you now. Shall we get on with our work this evening?" he said extending his hand.

Hour later Diego carefully edged his way to his room where he removed his dressing gown, pulled back the covers of his bed and climbed in. With a sigh he closed his eyes but sleep did not come. The pain he felt at the commandante's loss remained with him. How would he handle such a loss? Shaking his head Diego turned to Anna Maria who lay awake staring at him.

"Mi amor," said Anna Maria softly, "You do not have to tip toe around because of me. I have been lying awake waiting for you to return."

"You need your rest, mi querida," he said laying his hand on her rounded stomach.

"I know but I was worried," she said placing her hand on his face. "The tension between our guests has put me on edge. Perhaps once Don Carlos returns to Spain and the governor to Monterey things will be as before.

"Si, you and I can relax and really be a family. Until then, you must rest."

Placing her head on his chest they snuggled close. Diego and Anna Maria closed their eyes and prayed that peace would continue without the need for Zorro. Would Diego finally become the man he longed to be...a husband, father and a man to be respected?  Zorro the avenger of injustices would become a myth.

Sunrise brought renewed life to the sleepy hacienda. The vaqueros gathered their belongings and saddled their horses while the household servants began the daily chores. Diego rose early to meet his father in the study while Anna Maria slept. The two men spent some time going over the household expenses. Soon they would ride out to check on the stock being readied for market.

While father and son were finishing up in the study an old peasant appeared at the entrance of the hacienda. He dismounted and tied his horse to a post but before entering he turned and looked up into the hills and smiled. This was to be a new beginning for him and the end of his enemy. With the help of Ramirez he would seek his vengeance once and for all. Opening the door the peon clumsily moved toward the main house and knocked at the front door. Diego and Don Alejandro heard the knocking and left the study only to follow Bernardo to the door.   Diego and his father stood behind the manservant eager to receive their visitor. Removing his hat the old man feebly handed an envelope to Bernardo. The manservant smiled and handed the note over to Diego.

"Father," said Diego. "This is for his Excellency".

"Diego, this maybe important. I will take the note to the Governor at once. Please see that the messenger remains in case there is a reply." Don Alejandro walked out to the patio and proceeded up the stairs to the governor's room.

In a matter of moments Don Alejandro called out to his son as he hurried down the stairs to the garden.

"Diego," Alejandro called out. "Sergeant Garcia has asked his Excellency and I to come to the pueblo this morning. We will leave momentarily. I am on my way to ask Don Carlos to join us. Please ask that the carriage be readied and inform the Governor's guards that we will be leaving for the pueblo."

"At once father," answered Diego.

"Diego, it looks like I will be some time in Los Angeles," said the don taking his son by the arm. We must make sure the stock is made ready for market. Please take Bernardo with you to help take inventory."

"Very well," Diego nodded and motioned to the peasant to come forward. The messenger drew close always keeping his face lowered.

"Please tell Sergeant Garcia, that his Excellency, my father and Don Carlos will be arriving shortly."

Nodding to Diego and backing away the old man quickly disappeared. For a brief moment, Diego felt a queer sensation. Was this not the same man he passed at the cuartel gate a few weeks back?

A half-hour later the hacienda was quiet. Anna Maria was in the kitchen with the cook discussing the week's menu while Leonar and the commandante absorbed themselves in conversation in the sala.

"Enrique, my heart is filled with such joy at this news Dr. Avila has given you," Leonar said cheerfully.

"There are still obstacles," Monastario added.

"Si, she said with a smile, "but together we can deal with anything. I know everyone will come to accept you. To see you the way I do. Don Alejandro and my father have already taken steps to amend their feelings."

Leonar cupped the capitan's face in her hands and leaned over and pressed her lips to his. At first apprehensive Monastario resisted but soon his love for Leonar overcame his fears. Swept away by emotion, neither Leonar nor the capitan noticed Anna Maria standing at the foot of the stairs beaming happily.

Anna Maria was about to turn and go back to the kitchen when Don Carlos walked through the entrance to the sala. Eagerly Don Carlos greeted Anna Maria with a smile but as he looked toward the sala and the two people seated there the glow in his face disappeared. After all it was Don Carlos who had helped his son escape punishment in the death of the commandante's wife. Taking Don Carlos by the arm Anna Maria proceeded down the stairs toward Leonar and Monastario knowing that a confrontation was long overdue.

Just as the Monastario and Don Carlos came face to face a loud noise drew attention to the patio doors that flew open. Boldly two men, their faces covered, walked toward their unsuspecting victims armed with guns.

"Ladies, do not scream," said one of the men. "It will do no good. The servants have been locked up and there will be no help."

"What do you want," asked Anna Maria defiantly.

"You do not have to ask," Monastario said contemptuously. "I would recognize these two banditos anywhere."

"Gracias," said the old peasant as he took off the cloth covering his face followed by the other man.

"Miguel," called out Don Carlos.

"Si Senor Ramirez," said Monastario. "Your son and my old friend, Licenciado Pina.